What happens when roughly 200 nature seekers pile on buses at pre-dawn to go renew their spirits in the Colorado Rockies? We find our tribe. The month of August marked the Inaugural Fjällräven Classic USA. In Sweden, the Fjällräven Classic is an 11 year-old trekking tradition that celebrates community and hiking. The much-loved event made its stateside debut August 19-21 in Colorado.
It makes sense for Fjällräven to debut the USA Classic in Colorado. The company’s corporate headquarters are located in Louisville, the flagship store is anchored on Boulder’s historic Pearl Street Mall, and with a major airport nearby, the event drew attendees from coast to coast and overseas. We are a strong community of outdoor enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and self-proclaimed mountain goats of all levels, and we love to play in the mountains. (Our responsibility is to practice Leave No Trace Principles, and lucky for us, Boulder-based organization Leave No Trace was there to remind us.)
The Fjällräven Classic is open to all skill levels and we were impressed by our fellow trekkers who came in from the east and west coasts to participate. Over the course of three days we trekked, sang, laughed, and snacked our way through 20 plus miles of Colorado’s State Forest State Park.
As far as trekking and backpacking goes, this is not your typical ‘roughing it’ trip. While we did endure hail, rain, and thunderstorms the first day, the group’s efforts and spirits were rewarded with Swedish fish and hot soup at one of several check points. These check points became social spots to mingle with friends both old and new, relax, and to ask the guy with the guitar, well, why he lugged a guitar into the backcountry.
The guitar and bear canister drum were an instant success at Jewel Lake, the site of our first night’s camp. Supplies for s’mores and instant coffee brought instant smiles to our now mostly dry faces as we set up camp, purified water with brand new filtration bottles provided to each trekker by Grayl, and watched sunset.
The first reward of day two was a beautiful sunrise, followed by more trekking up valley to Kelly Lake, but only after another check-point stocked with jerky, Swedish Fish, and trail mix. The hike up to Kelly Lake is gradual, but even experienced hikers were happy to pause at the saddle and enjoy the stunning view of the lake below, before descending to camp along the waters’ edge. Six of us (professional photographers Nate Luebbe, Will McKay, John Lloyd, and Go Pro whiz Hyungmin Kim, as well as myself and a brand new hire for the Boulder Fjällräven retail store) felt the need for a direct view of sunset, so we traversed the saddle above Kelly Lake and summited the ridge before returning to clear skies and the Milky Way arching over the lake.
The final day was a relaxing downhill hike, descending through pine and aspen groves, out to the plains below, and the prize at the end? A feast prepared by celebrated Colorado-based chef, Kyle Mendenhal (former head chef of Boulder’s The Kitchen restaurant, now at the helm of the kitchen in the newly opened Arcana), live music by Kind Hearted Strangers (the guitar survived!), and libations. Fjällräven treated us like backcountry kings and queens, while the mountains humbled our souls, renewed our spirits, and created strong friendships. The Fjällräven Classic left a lasting impression on the participants, and this tradition successfully found its place in America.
For more photos from the event, search #fjallclassic2016 on Instagram.
Until next year!
— words by Kaela Whitaker
Fjällräven Classic USA 2016:
-Kaela Whitaker is a social media consultant, passionate backpacker, and lover of all things tents. Follow her feature page, My Tent Door on Instagram for daily inspiration.
-John Lloyd is a Boulder-based outdoor adventure and lifestyle photographer. Seeking ideas for your next epic road trip? Make sure to check him out on Instagram.