For the last month I’d been admiring billboards around town about the buffalo roundup that takes place every fall at Antelope island, so without really thinking about it, we booked a campsite and planned to bike tour to the island for the weekend.
I suppose I hadn’t really considered the weather implications of taking a tour during the last weekend of October in northern Utah, but a fall chill had settled here over the past week or so. Our tomato plants had frozen and died and we woke up every day last week to frost on every available surface. With the chill in mind, we briefly considered bailing on our bike plans and taking the car instead, but I knew I’d be disappointed if I missed out on an opportunity to ride my trusty touring bike loaded with all my favorite camping gear one last time for the year, so we decided to brave the cold.
Friday night after work we headed home, briefly packed every item of warm-weather gear we own, and hit the road, hoping with all our might that we’d make it to the entrance gate before 7:00 PM when they close the park gates for the night. I was frankly a little worried because we’d gotten terribly used to riding unloaded and the extra weight really wasn’t doing our speed any favors.
In spite of our concerns, we made great time as we made the 28 mile journey to the island. We were quite surprised at how friendly and accommodating the traffic was. We frequent the route to the island often on our road bikes, and typically we are regarded as something of a nuisance the farther north we go. We’ve been honked at, yelled at, and even cursed at over the years, even as we politely ride well inside the shoulder. Usually, by the time we get to northern Davis County we are tired of the fast, close-cutting traffic and are glad to turn around and head back into the quiet farmland.
Once on our loaded bikes, however, this all changed. Never before have I seen traffic completely stop on Angel Street just to let us cross the road when we clearly didn’t have the right of way. At nearly every intersection cars stopped to let us go through and people waved with an occasional friendly honk. As it turns out, all you need to bring out polite drivers on the road is to add big yellow bags to your bike. It was such a relief to be riding in our own hometown with so many kind people lining our way.
We arrived at the causeway just before sunset, much to our relief. We weren’t feeling very keen on riding the whole way home in the dark. Once inside the park though, we still had to cross the causeway to the island. The 7-mile stretch of of road between Layton and the island is always deceivingly long, and in anticipation I layered up as the temperature was falling quickly. As we road toward the harbor on the island it seemed as though we were always “almost there”, but really never were. Despite the chill and the falling darkness, we repeatedly stopped to photograph the areas iconic sunset and add a few more layers.
We cruised over the hilly island, and in the dwindling darkness we observed an owl perched on some rocks, a jackrabbit running across the road, and some bison hanging out on the side of the road. With the city lights now far behind us, it felt a world away from home. We rolled into Bridger Bay campground shortly after dark. The campsites, while technically considered “dry primitive” were very clean and are spaced out nicely. Despite the cold, we were surprised to find the campground full to capacity with participants in the roundup and Boy Scout groups. Apparently this roundup is actually a thing!
It was still pretty early, but we hadn’t brought any reading material or homework to work on, so we took advantage of the early autumn darkness and crawled into bed. We zipped our sleeping bags together for warmth, snuggled in together, and dozed off to the occasional sound of a coyote call and a cold breeze flapping through our rainfly. It was good to be back in our tent – seemingly where we belong.