Overnight Bike Touring to Antelope Island, Utah

By Martin Neunzert

Martin and Arleigh Neunzert, on the causeway. Photo by Martin Neunzert

I remember, a long time ago, when March was for corn skiing. But no matter, we will adapt and evolve. Cycle touring is a good substitute, right? But everyone is SO busy, busily coming up with lame excuses like “work” or “yard work.”

So could I design a unique early-season, shake-out micro-adventure? I certainly thought so. Antelope Island leaped to mind, although I didn’t figure on the Buffalo Run and a bunch of crazed birders. They got all the good campsites.

Saturday was spent wheelbarrowing three cubic yards of bark mulch and finishing a report for my job. All week I had been throwing diverse things into the BOB trailer, so the final packing was quick. We met Molly (#Who’s-Crazier-Someone-Who-Thinks-Of-Things-Like-This-or-Someone-Who-Gets-Talked-Into-Them) at the start of the Antelope Island Causeway at 4:30 pm, smashing our best crack-of-noon start by hours and hours. Good thing the dozens of running and yelling Scouts were done for the day, I thought, but why did they still have so much energy? Then I heard: “OK, everybody load up! Remember, White Rock Bay!” Hey! That’s where we’re going!

By 5:00 pm, accompanied by the sound of gunfire from local shot-gunners, we were heading west, into the setting sun, with barely a headwind. Over the hill and down to White Rock Bay, a grueling hour-and-a-half ride, including all the stops.

WRB #17 is not the bleakest campsite I’ve used—“Camp Tatooine” holds that distinction—but by far the bleakest I’ve had to pay for. Even though the sites are well separated, the noise of over-amped Scouts, with nothing to block it, was the dominant irritant. We felt a little wimpy watching the last of the Buffalo Run participants straggle by, some not just figuratively on their last legs.

Antelope Island is famous for its spectacular sunsets, but that day’s was not one of them. On the plus side, there were absolutely no bugs and only a barely perceptible breeze. Molly had fully embraced the spirit of the trip, pulling out a congealed Burger King burger to go with the still-cool margaritas, having been frozen into a brick and wrapped in my wooly socks. We chatted amicably about the world’s problems—and solved many of them—as the sliver of the crescent moon slipped behind Buffalo Point and vivid stars filled the sky.

I’ve camped in an astoundingly wide range of spots on my bicycle tours: In a dusty pit next to a busy highway, amongst Engelmann spruce by a mountain lake, in a narrow sandstone canyon in southern Utah, between 45-foot motor homes running generators in the heart of Yellowstone National Park, behind a gritty sand dune. It never fails to amaze me how little a practiced bike tourer needs to be totally secure and comfortable.

I know what you’re thinking: “Why didn’t they get a spot at the Ladyfinger walk-in campground?” Well, yes, had this brilliantly-designed campground been available, we certainly would have. It would be several more months before it was opened. Yet Antelope Island State Park could do even more to accommodate cycle tourers. For example, parks in other states guarantee cyclists will not be turned away if all the campgrounds are full. Then, maybe someday, long after this article has been forgotten, a future superintendent of Antelope Island State Park will be talked into a bicycle tour by her crazy friends and love it. Later still, after she becomes the superintendent, she’ll realize the potential this park has and, possessing both extraordinary wisdom and great determination, will give us the unequalled world-class experience of bicycle camping at Garr Ranch!

The coyotes, practicing their non-movie-script yipping and laughing, woke up the meadow larks at 3:00 am and they woke us up with their relentless singing. It was what photographers call a “yawn dawn” and was chilly enough to make us linger a bit in the sleeping bags. We casually fixed a simple breakfast, and soon were on our way, warming up nicely on the first hill. We investigated the water supply at Bridger Bay (excellent, and available all year), and soon were cruising along the causeway. We were home in time to move the rest of the bark mulch.

I count the trip as a total success: simple, storied and stellar. The total time away from home was approximately 20 hours, with about 21 miles of cycling in three hours. We shook all the winter cobwebs out of our equipment, plans were made for our next adventure (a 50-mile three day tour to Craters of the Moon National Monument) and promises were made to refine the margarita recipe to better complement freeze-dried food!

Note: This account was written in the spring of 2015, after what we thought was a exceptionally poor winter. I’ll leave it up to you to guess what I’d given to have last winter be that good…

Molly Mooers leading, Arleigh Neunzert cruising on Antelope Island, Utah. Photo by Martin Neunzert
Campsite WRB #17. Pretty Bleak. Photo by Martin Neunzert
Molly Mooers (left) and Arleigh Neunzert on Antelope Island, Utah. Photo by Martin Neunzert
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