We all crave adventure for different reasons. Most of the time we come home feeling ecstatic, refreshed, and ready to plan another one. For the past few years, Lindsay and I have been putting a lot of our extra time into running this publication, while continuing to work full-time jobs and balance work and play. It’s not always easy, but the work we do is rewarding. Getting out for an overnighter and coming back feeling refreshed is important to do, and the more often the better. Lindsay had bought permits for the White Rim back in January for the weekend of May 14th, and we planned on doing a fun 3-day leisurely ride with some friends from Crested Butte. A week before the scheduled White Rim trip I was able to convince her to go for a bikepacking overnighter with just the two of us instead. My proposal plan was a go. I put together a simple bikepacking route which we dubbed the “Banana Express” that consisted of 80 miles and 2 days in the banana belt of Colorado, better known as the Arkansas River Valley. The plan was to start in Salida and head north. We were going to ride about 40 miles and camp just outside of Buena Vista, complete with some outstanding scenery. The second day we would roll into Buena Vista, re-up on food and head southbound back to Salida on county roads. Banana Express Salida is one of those towns that I have loved ever since I first visited 5 years ago. It’s small enough, typically has extremely nice weather, some stellar singletrack and trail advocacy, and a rich bike culture. Salida is also home to some pretty popular bikepacking routes. We decided to use part of Salida’s Big Friggen Loop route and pair it with some county roads, since the Colorado Trail had not dried out yet. Big thanks to Tom Purvis for the route help. Banana Express-02129 Banana Express-02135 In order to find a good view and camp site we needed to do the route in a counterclockwise direction. This meant we would be in for a stout climb out of Salida. We climbed up the GDMBR and eventually split off toward Aspen Ridge, which tops out at roughly 10,000 feet. You can typically count on plenty of snow at that elevation in other areas of Colorado during this time of year, but the eastern hills of the Arkansas Valley were already mostly cleared of snow. 02177 Banana Express We were hauling heavy rigs filled with beer, plenty of delicious food, and a lot of water. Our spirits remained positive, and all I could think about was how I was going to pop the question. Should it be during our ride or at camp? Eventually, Forest Service roads would filter to dirt county roads as we made our way to HWY 285. We crossed the highway and entered the Fourmile Travel Management Area. Banana Express-02269 After topping out on the climb and finding a sweet overlook, we decided to call it a day – but not before I spent a suspicious amount of time contemplating the best camp spot for my particular needs. We arrived early in the evening, just in time for a beer. We were tired, but we were also pretty excited to chill. Well, Lindsay was. I was pretty nervous. Banana Express-02308 The sun started to set as I waited for the perfect moment. When that moment came, the woman that I have spent 8 years with said yes to being my partner for life. Really, I could not think of a better place to be at that moment – staring out at the beautiful Collegiate Peaks engulfed by storm clouds, a quaint campfire, and a setting sun. It was perfect. Banana Express-02344 Banana Express With a new sense of excitement the next morning started off just right. Temperatures were a bit chilly and the forecast for rain had increased but nothing was going to ruin this feeling. I made some delicious backcountry coffee and we were off to the Midland Trail singletrack, just east of Buena Vista. Banana Express Banana Express-02447 The rain started to come down harder and harder as we approached town. There is something about bikepacking while it rains, especially in Colorado. It’s a familiar feeling that makes me feel at home. The tacky trail, smell of springtime rain, and fast speeds were perfect. Once we made it into BV, we stopped by Boneshaker Cycles to chat with Devin. We then sat down at the local diner, Jan’s, for breakfast burritos and warm coffee. Banana Express After our pit stop in BV, our afternoon went pretty quickly. Our original plan to soak at Princeton Hot Springs on the ride back quickly changed after we noticed the pools were packed. We continued on and connected a number of different county roads with views of the stunning College Peaks towering above us to our west. Banana Express-02487 Banana Express-02491 Banana Express-02509 Salida greeted us after a brief stint on the highway. My plan was successful and the trip was perfect. The Arkansas Valley holds a special place in both of our hearts, and it left us yet again, wanting more.

12 Comments

  1. Congratulations – may you have many miles filled with many smiles!

  2. Congrats Neil!! Strong work!!

  3. congrats! wonderful story!

  4. Onya Neil!! I popped the question to Beth while bikepacking in NZ a few years ago – it seems a winning formula 🙂

  5. Fantastic. Congratulations, guys!

  6. Very touching story.. I wish someday, someone will do the same thing for me. 🙂

  7. Awesome trip, awesome story, congrats! You have a gpx file or route map you’d be willing to share?

  8. Tom (Iowagriz)

    Great chronicle of your trip and special moment. Congrats!

  9. Congrats Both of You.

  10. Congrats! 🙂

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