Adventuring in Boulder: pushing for peak performance, the Skyline Traverse + urban hikes

Third installment of ‘My Boulder Adventure’ series

By Tatyana Sharpton Jun 19 2020

Editor’s note: June is our adventure issue. We’ll be exploring adventure topics throughout the month, including profiles of Boulderites and their adventures in this “My Boulder Adventure” series.

As many local Boulderites agree, almost anything can turn into an adventure, from taking a crazy trip and living in a van for a year to simply choosing a different route on a daily walk.

We continue our local adventure series with two individuals who pushed their limits of strength and discipline through stories of competition and intensive training and a multi-month hiking journey across many of Boulder trails, peaks and urban pathways.

Darcy Kitching

Writer, teacher, photographer, program director and mom, Darcy moved with her husband from Denver to Boulder in 2011, and has just released her book, The Best Urban Hikes: Boulder.

Darcy Kitching

Darcy has chased the thrill of adventure around the world, from bungee jumping in New Zealand to riding a camel in India, water skiing on the Aegean Sea and dancing tango all night in Argentina.

“Adventure means willingly stepping into the unknown with curiosity and delight,” says Darcy, “and an adventurous mindset means to be open to new discoveries inside and outside of yourself.”

The biggest Boulder adventure Darcy ever embarked on was in 2017 when she decided to hike the five-peak Boulder Skyline Traverse — a 16-mile course with over 6,000 feet of elevation gain — every month for six consecutive months, from May to October.

“After hiking the route with the Boulder Hiker Chicks in May,” says Darcy, “I spent one day each month hiking alternately south to north Boulder, or north to south, doing the final hike on my birthday in early October. I would start at 5:30 am and finish by 3:30 pm, in time to pick my son up from preschool.”

Darcy, who lives in South Boulder, could actually hike right out of her front door.

She’d hike up Fern Canyon to Bear Peak, hike over to South Boulder Peak, then go north to Green Mountain, Flagstaff Mountain and Mount Sanitas. “Then I’d walk down the Goat Trail to 3rd Street and Forest Avenue, and catch the Skip bus down Broadway to my home.

“On the months I hiked north to south, I would drive to the Goat Trail, do the hike, go home and take a shower, then take the bus to retrieve my car. It was a wonderful six months!”

Darcy has also developed and guided people through a 26-mile “slow marathon” urban hiking route called the Walk 360, which takes people on every walking surface in the city from dirt trails to paved multi-use paths, sidewalks, streets without sidewalks and alleyways. She has now completed the Walk 360 route more than 15 times, and has made the two-part map publicly available: East and West.

A group of Walk 360 hikers in 2019. Image: Darcy Kitching.

Darcy has led weekly walks and urban hikes with the Boulder Ramblers, the Boulder chapter of the Walk2Connect Cooperative, for the past five years. Darcy has also created routes for the City of Boulder’s Boulder Walks Program, including a Boulder Mural and Street Art Tour, and one called Go Gaga for Greenways!, a route that follows the ditch system around the city.

Her favorite hikes include Boulder Valley Ranch, the Foothills Trail to Wonderland Lake, NCAR to Woods Quarry, and longer adventures like Marshall Mesa to downtown Louisville.

Darcy spoke about developing the Walk 360 at Ignite Boulder in September 2018.

Michael Phipps

Michael Phipps

Michael, a graduate student studying study media and public engagement at CU moved to Boulder in 2019 from Des Moines, Iowa.

“My favorite type of adventures are the ones that challenge and scare me,” says Michael. “If I have to spend time preparing my mind and body before going, it’s my type of adventure.”

One of Michael’s biggest Boulder adventures involved competing in his first Muay Thai fight through local martial arts academy Easton Training Center in December 2019. These fights don’t result in a winner, but exist to test and sharpen each participant.

Michael, who started martial arts in 2016 as a way to creatively expand his drive towards peak performance, fell in love with Muay Thai when he moved to Boulder and found Easton’s community, which inspired him to begin competing in it.

Leading up to the fight, Mike prepared for about eight weeks, doing fitness training in the mornings with sprints and long runs and hours of Muay Thai training sessions in the afternoons.

A Muay Thai fight in Denver. Image: Michael Phipps.

The idea of sacrificing more than his opponent helped give him a mental edge to commit the strict regimen of training and diet, including not eating out or snacking throughout those and trading his post-workout chocolate protein bars (and cookie obsession) for apples, chicken and eggs.

Michael (right) fighting at the Muay Thai Smoker. Image: Michael Phipps.

“All that work and preparation boiled down to performing for six minutes,” said Michael.

“I felt like I executed my technique to the highest of my abilities at the time, which was one of the biggest goals for me in the competition,” he added. “That type of pressure, and the preparation it required, was an adventure that helped shape who I am.”

Michael suggests the following weekly workout to begin our own ironman or ironwoman journey: 100 pushups, 100 squats, 100 sit-ups, two-mile run, 100 pushups, 100 squats, 100 sit-ups.

Header image: Darcy Kitching on Bear Peak during my Skyline Traverse in August 2017. Image: Darcy Kitching.