Hi everyone. I finally got tired of riding the roads around my house, and decided to load the bikes up last Saturday and head to Antelope Island. My son has been running with the local high school track team all spring, so his fitness was sure to put mine to shame. But, I put my pride in my pocket, and we headed for the Island.
The morning dawned cold and windy, so we added jackets and pants to our packs, but by the time we reached the island, the temperature had risen into the 60s...amazingly warm for northern Utah this time of year. The wind seemed to have died down also, but this was not the blessing it might seem. As soon as we opened the van door, the bugs began to swarm and buzz around. The gnats were especially vicious. We slathered on the bug repellent and took off.
Trying to outrun the gnats:
The Island was amazingly green, for being in the middle of a desert and a salty inland sea. It is probably only this green for a few days out of the year, so I was glad we made the trip. The loop we rode starts off by going along the beach at White Rock Bay. It is named for the white rock that sits in the middle of the bay...imagine that! But 7 years of drought have taken their toll on the Great Salt Lake, and White Rock is practically on the beach now. I'm sure the water is shallow enough that you could walk right out to the rock.
After you pass the bay, the trail turns uphill, slightly, and climbs toward the Elephant Head Trail spur. Unfortunately, this is the part of the ride where my son's superior conditioning becomes evident! He soon tired of riding with dad, and took off up the hill. Fortunately, he waited for me at the Elephant Head trailhead, on a bench so kindly provided by the State Parks Division for just such an occasion.
As you can probably see from the photo, the trail only gets steeper from this point. Fortunately, the climb to the Elephant Head trail is a short one...unfortunately, it's not short enough that I could stay with my son!
Good thing my son hadn't ridden this trail in many years. If he'd known which way to go, he probably wouldn't have waited for me again.
(Insert obligatory "kid leaning against a rock" pic here)
Once we reached the top of the climb, the good part of the ride began. The Elephant Head trail is 1.42 miles of swoopy, moderately technical singletrack goodness. After the long (for a fat guy) climb, it was nice to just let the bike run for a little while.
We reached the end of the trail and the Elephant Head overlook. The overlook is approximately 900 feet above the Great Salt Lake, and looks west toward Stansbury Island and Nevada.
The overlook also provided me a chance to catch my breath, and reapply the bug repellant my exertion had washed away. While there, we were able to admire the local flora and fauna.
Obligatory "bike leaning against inanimate object" pic:
Antelope Island is home to a transplanted herd of buffalo. Although they have free range of the island, they usually stay close to the northern end. I've never failed to get a glimpse of at least one buffalo, but they seemed especially prevalent on Saturday. I learned an important lesson about viewing buffalo while we were there.
This is an extremely safe distance from which to view a buffalo:
This is a moderately safe distance from which to view a buffalo:
This is an extremely unsafe distance from which to view a buffalo:
While climbing up to the cone on our final leg of the ride, we saw two trail patrolwomen on horseback approaching. We stopped our bikes to yield the trail to them, but they stopped also. I waved them forward, and they started pointing to our right. I looked over into the dry weeds, and saw this gentleman lumbering across the trail, about 50 yards away. I thought it would be a great photo op, so I reached for my camera in my pack. About that time, he decided he'd take a closer look at us, altered his course, and began walking straight for my son and I. If we turned around, the trail was downhill, so I thought we might be able to make a getaway. I stowed the camera, and slowly turned the bikes around, keeping an eye on the buffalo all the time. He seemed to lose interest in us, and at about 20 yards away, he turned back on his original course, and headed down toward the water ponds below us. I got this photo just after he turned away. When the patrolwomen saw he was moving away, they rode down the hill to us. "I want to know how fast your heart was beating," the leader asked. I replied, "It was beating quite fast, right up until the point it quit!" I replied. They laughed, and continued their ride down the hill. We had just one more obstacle to complete before our loop was complete, and the ride was over...I call it the Sand Wall.
It is said that age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill, and that was true in this case. My son tried several times to ride up the hill, but the sand and the rocks wore him down, and he ended up pushing his bike up the hill. Dad, on the other hand, used the packed line to the left, and made it up the hill...one small victory for the fat, old dads of the world!
A sandy, fast downhill, and we were back at the van. We quickly dove inside to avoid the gnats and biting flies, and headed for home. Of course, no ride would be complete without stopping for some refreshment on the way home.
Nothing like a pastrami burger and some fries, eaten with fantastic company, to finish a ride off right. If you made it this far, thanks for indulging me!
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