By Misty Newman
No mountain is too high or challenge too big for Nathan Smith. His first epic hike was 22 miles and then he followed that up with hiking the tallest peak in the contiguous United States.
As we sat in the coffee shop, I could see Nathan’s energy and enthusiasm to share his fitness journey with me. He went from being overweight and sedentary to working out on a regular basis, eating healthy and sharing his passion with other people. He is an inspiration for those who have been struggling to get fit, stay active and eat healthy.
Growing up in Iowa and working in Construction as a young man, he led a fairly inactive lifestyle and had poor eating habits. He moved to Arizona in 2009 with his wife and four kids. He knew that a change had to be made to be healthy for his family.
He started his new way of life with drastic weight loss and changes to his diet. He attended a wellness introduction with Copa Craze and it changed his life.
“I was always a fast food junkie,” Smith says. “I was in construction and my parents never taught me how to eat properly. I walked into Copa Craze saying what is this place? I met Lisa and I got on their program eventually. I ended up going in week after week and I lost 40 pounds in 4 months.”
Now that the pounds were off, it was time for Nathan to set new goals and go on to even greater challenges.
In May of 2013, Pastor Rusty Akers with Community of Hope Church asked Nathan to go on a 22-mile Grand Canyon rim to rim hike. The trek is seven miles down the canyon, seven miles across, and then eight miles back up; the entire hike took 9 hours and 45 minutes.
At this point Nathan was hooked and he “fell in love with hiking.” One time in the Grand Canyon wasn’t enough for Nathan so in October 2014, he went again with a group of 5 people. This time it took 15 hours with three hours hiking in the dark. To prepare for these long hikes, Nathan walks 7-10 miles per day and says it was “tough to train for without hills.”
Always striving to improve and reach beyond his known limits, Nathan and his brother in-law climbed Mount Whitney in July, 2015. Mount Whitney is part of the John Muir Trail which is 214 miles from north to south. John Muir is revered as the godfather of all national parks.
According to Smith, John Muir’s conservation efforts kept the logging industry from taking over and destroying the forests. Hiking the John Muir trail can take between 16-22 days. Mount Whitney starts at 4,000 feet and goes up to 14,500 feet.
Smith and his brother-in-law started their hike at the portal which is at 8,000 feet. They climbed for seven hours and climbed to 12,500 feet, where they decided it was best to stay the night. At this altitude, he says, “we slept on the rocks.” After a short time of sleeping, they left at 2:30 a.m. to get to the top.
Due to the thinning air as they climbed, Nathan got altitude sickness at 13,000 feet; however, he was not about to stop being that he was so close to the top.
“I just pushed through it,” he says. “But by the time I got to 14,000 feet, I got really sick. You’re only on half the amount of oxygen. Your muscles are starving for oxygen and it’s hard to breathe. My brother-in law and I stayed there for 10 minutes and wanted to leave because neither of us was feeling good. We had this vision of sitting up there and enjoying the view.”
Nathan stated that he met a lady who was sleeping at the top and it was below freezing. She hiked the entire trail so her body acclimated to the altitude shifts gradually.
Once they started their descent, there was no stopping them. They hiked down in one day and once they completed their climb, they drove one hour to Death Valley. Within 24 hours they went from 14,500 feet to 282 feet below sea level.
As a busy father, husband, wellness coach and fitness guru, Smith is driven by “Anything I can do outdoors; the change of scenery and the challenge of it. I love to help people, but we’re all built this way. I love helping people with weight loss and to see their confidence level. My sister was a huge driver for me and how much her life changed. When people are so sick of yo-yo dieting is when they will make a change. 1 out of 6 people are obese. People are dying from heart disease which is the No. 1 killer in the U.S. and the world.”
Smith’s big question is why this isn’t taught in schools.
What is next for Nathan?
In July of 2016, his goal is to scale Glacier National Monument in Montana. Smith is also starting a new hiking group in Maricopa. There will be two hikes scheduled per month at no cost.
“This is my mission – helping people eat better and get healthy,” he says. “I want to get the community involved in doing family fitness and eating healthier. I want to help families one at a time.”
For those starting out, Nathan suggests shorter hikes. “There are a lot of great places to go around here,” he says. “Take your family on weekend hikes, and just fall in love with it.”
Misty Newman grew up in Idaho and was raised in the outdoors. She loves to go camping, hiking, fishing, & rafting. In her past life, two of her favorite recreational activities included bungee jumping and rock climbing. She was a ranger for a state park, a Recreation Coordinator for the Boys and Girls Club, and the photo editor at the College of Southern Idaho. She moved from Idaho in 2007 and has lived in Maricopa since. She now enjoys exploring AZ with her two beautiful children. Visit http://www.maricopaoutdooradventures.com/
See her previous InMaricopa Outdoors stories: