Riding the Great Basin. It’s like Fantasy Island in Tucson. No, wait, hear me out. Fantasy Island is a 2×1 mile, pan-flat tract of land with a million little single track loops built on it. The riding is fairly sub-par, but there are surprises around every corner in the form of trail art or random things to look at.
The Great Basin, so far, has been similar. Nothing super exciting about the riding, but surprises around every corner. Given that there aren’t many corners, surprises don’t come often, but when they do, they’re good.
We rolled out at a semi-civilized hour, dropping our bounce box off with the front desk of the hotel to mail on Monday, picked up another dinner and a few donuts since we discovered that nothing is going to be open for us in Atlantic City on Monday, and went to Penny’s for breakfast. I love me a good greasy spoon diner.
From there, 15 miles of easy, paved, highway riding north. We opted to skip the fiddle-farting dirt road and cross country sections that the CDT did, paralleling the highway. The wind stayed calm and we made it to Mineral X road in no time.
It was time to go hunt down some hikers. We knew we had at least 8 of them in our sights for the Basin crossing.
A gentle east wind swept us along, and we eventually turned onto the two-track that would be the norm for the day.
We saw a dead cow who’s innards were completely licked clean but most of the skin was intact. Totally gross, but fascinating.
It wasn’t long before we saw the Fellowship trio in front of us.
“When did you leave Rawlins?” they asked.
“You don’t want to know.”
“Wow. We hiked forever last night (we’d bade them farewell around 2 pm at Penny’s the day before), but we had a rave party along the highway with glow sticks and everything. It was awesome!”
Then we pulled out our trail magic.
“You guys want some watermelon?”
Eyes got big.
Undoing my seatbag, I pulled out my sleeping bag and then a personal sized watermelon that I’d been hauling. We’d decided to share it with the first thru-hikers we saw.
Stoked. I think they were stoked. We cut it in half and enjoyed the juicy sweetness in the warming desert sun.
We bade them farewell. We had more hikers to catch. We ran into Analog, Mellow Yellow, and Want Some at a water source, our first meeting with them. They told us that the Chimp crew was just a few miles down the road.
We ran into Chimp and Kipper first. We hadn’t seen them since Pie Town.
“Look at all these petrified rocks we’ve found!” They showed us their two handfuls of beautiful rocks. “This one has a fossil in it! Look!”
We chatted for a bit about the past 1,000+ miles since our last meeting. “Are Tootsie and Spork up there?”
“Yeah. They weren’t as enthused about findings rocks as we were.”
We laughed and pedaled on to find the next two sitting next to the road, waiting for the rock hounds. “How many rocks do they have by now?” they asked.
“You don’t want to know.”
They caught up eventually and showed their hiking partners their finds. It was one of the cutest things I’ve seen.
Chimp – “Have you seen this one?”
Tootsie – “Yes.”
Chimp – “How about this one?”
Tootsie – “Yep.”
We left them soon after with our eyes on catching Sunset who they said was about a day ahead of them.
We rolled on beautiful double track. Wild horses stampeded in the distance. Pronghorn antelope ran with us, babies in tow. More wild horses. More antelope.
We found a spring with a sign in book and a bocce ball set. Bocce in the basin! Too bad neither of us knew the rules and the flies were horrendous. All you can drink cold water!!
The trail went from hardpacked to sandy to rocky to sandy to hardpacked. It climbed, it meandered, it ran along ridges. It was absolutely the most gorgeous riding we’ve done since…well, the ride into Rawlins. Every day is the prettiest day ever.
As the sun started to set, the repeated question was “Where the heck is Sunset?” One could surmise that he’s up to 90 miles into the Basin and we called it quits at 75. We’re perched high on a ridge looking back along the ridges that we just ran with the sun setting behind the Wind Rivers and putting on an amazing light show. I love these wide open spaces with 360 degree views.
And we’ll get Sunset tomorrow. And maybe Jefe and Bad Seed if we’re lucky.