By Brian Nicholson
Typically any day riding a bike is a good day and with unseasonably warm temperatures for January in Utah, that was exactly the plan. I made a somewhat noble attempt to make it to work early so I could leave in time to take a few boys out to Antelope Island, where it was reported that there was no snow or ice on any trail.
The afternoon arrived with kids out of school and we were ready to go, or so I thought. I discovered my hitch mount rack had a broken part and we had to regroup. This only delayed us by about 45 minutes and we were on our way, but 45 minutes when the sun sets at 5:30 was significant.
We eventually arrived at the trailhead and were on our bikes at 5:00, leaving maybe an hour of riding until we would need lights. The goal was to start out on the White Rock Loop and hopefully make it to Elephant Head and Split Rock. We began riding south along the low road which was mostly a double track and somewhat uneventful. This took us around the loop counter clockwise and once we were about two miles in, the grade began to work against us. The beauty of the setting sun was hard to ignore, and the vastness of the landscape around us was deceiving. What looked like mostly flat terrain was somehow forcing us all to downshift as the breathing became more difficult.
As the sun set and we reached the first fork in the road leading to Elephant Head, we wisely opted to continue on the loop. The course veered to a more forgiving climb up to the ridgeline of the island, revealing a panoramic vista of the golden peaks of the Wasatch Front on the east, and the fiery orange sky on the west. The views were spectacular!
What ensued was simply some of the most thrilling and enjoyable riding I have done in a long time. With sweat now quickly chilling our bodies, we bobbed and weaved back toward the sunset and along a gorgeous elevated trail as we raced against time to make it back before dark. The rush of the smooth downhill, intermingled with the occasional trail chunk to keep us all honest was unforgettable. Counter clockwise on this trail turned out to be an amazing choice.
We then bid a last farewell to the escaping daylight and began a quick descent toward the trailhead. With frozen toes and fingers we concluded an amazing experience on the island, one that will be difficult to forget. The simplicity of the landscape and the thrill of the trail erasing, if just for a moment, all the stressors and cares of our frenzied world. Biking at Antelope Island is truly an exhilarating experience.