On a cool September morning, I woke from my tent, slowly. I quietly got up and out of my sleeping bag, only to put extra layers on to fill the void and got ready for the day and the trip ahead of us. I love fall in Colorado.

On this particular weekend, Sierra Designs sent me out on assignment to photograph some of their new gear and to simply experience a wonderful fall weekend in the mountains. We packed in the new Clip Flashlight 2 tent, a great new lightweight backpacking tent that is such a breeze to set up and provides plenty of room for two people with extra room for their gear underneath the vestibule. We also brought along the Lightyear 1, which is very similar to the Clip Flashlight 2, but it’s made for the people who enjoy solo treks or simply just enjoy having the whole tent to themselves.

What was originally planned as a small group of friends heading into the backcountry turned into a large group in a day. Spontaneity at its finest. I had a trip planned to the Indian Peaks Wilderness for a while and had a small group that agreed to join in on the fun. However, 24 hours before we were planning to leave, my brother in Missouri called me and said he and his friend Drew, along with his golden retriever, Ponca, were driving through the night to join us in Colorado. Nice.

The weekend was full of good vibes. We woke up early the first day and headed out from the trailhead, taking our time to take in the environment around us. The changing colors of the aspen trees, the constant gurgling of the stream that wound its way around the trail the whole time, and the three moose we saw along the way. We stopped frequently for snacks, to cool off in the water, and because we really just weren’t in a huge hurry. When we did arrive at our destination, Crater Lake, we were definitely relieved and in awe of the beauty around us. Some promptly went off to find various shade patches to take an afternoon nap. Others slowly set up camp and got ready for the evening. As the sun dipped beneath the peaks, we brought out the stoves, whiskey, and beer, to begin the process of cooking dinners for eight people. As we were doing this we heard a distant, “YeeYee!” I instantly knew who it was. My good friend Tyler had mentioned that he may show up after us, and he actually did and he found our campsite with ease. All was well. We joked, we ate, we laughed, and all passed out fairly soon after the stars came out to dance.

We woke the next morning before the sun, made coffee and breakfast, and tried to stay in our sleeping bags as long as possible to fight off the crisp air of the morning. We went down to the lake to try our hand at some fly fishing before reluctantly packing up camp and making our way back the same way we came in. Not before an end of the trail dip in the mountain lake near the trailhead though.

It’s always nice to have old friends and family come out to the mountains with me. Growing up in the Midwest, we always saw the American West as a “Mecca” of sorts. We were constantly taking extended trips out west whenever we could make it work. The time finally came when it was feasible for me to actually move west and I did it without hesitation, even if it meant leaving behind family and friends. So when I get to spend time with those friends and family members in the mountains, it’s a euphoric feeling. I’ll never get tired of seeing a new alpine lake, summiting a peak, or watching the alpenglow on the tops of the peaks as the sun sets and rises. If life is about experiences, make the most of the moments you get in the places you love surrounded by people you love.

Ben is an adventure photographer currently based in the American West. He has a strong passion for the outdoors and keeping our wild places wild. Photography is just one way for Ben to inspire people to get outdoors and explore the beautiful world around them. You can usually find him in the mountains, on the river, or somewhere in between.

Check out more of his work at www.bentmatthews.com