A Dry, Dusty Day through the Great Basin

Day 20: Atlantic City to A&M Reservoir (83.6 miles, 2,952ft)

Atlantic City Sunrise

Today, we rode into the Great Basin—a wide arid depression in central Wyoming. (The Continental Divide splits and wraps around the Great Basin; water on the out edges of the Divide runs to the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, while water that runs into the Great Basin stays there.)

During the previous day, vegetation had grown increasingly sparse as we approached South Pass City and Atlantic City; today, we left all remaining trees behind. Once into the basin, all we could see for miles was yellow grass, dirt, rock, and the occasional bush. After yesterday’s cloudy, windy weather, the sun had come out in force; but, thankfully, the temperature stayed relatively cool.

Into the Great Basin
No trees in sight!

We didn’t bring more water than normal (3 liters each), counting on a well 25 miles into the ride to refill before the remaining 55 miles to the A&M Reservoir. Unfortunately, we over-shot the well, so we had to backtrack 1.5 miles to the water stop—a good decision since there was absolutely no water on route between the well (which was actually a pipe with flowing, non-potable water) and the A&M Reservoir.

After a refill and snack, we continued through the rolling arid terrain, spotting pronghorns and the occasional wild horse. We saw few signs of people, aside from the occasional oil well and sporadic cattle fencing. Navigation was relatively straightforward, since major junctions were well-signposted.

Dave and I both enjoyed the riding—the terrain reminded us both of places we had hiked and biked in previous work in the Middle East, and we enjoyed the expansive perspective that the terrain offered—a novel break from the higher mountains. Of course, a mild tailwind from the west also made the day easier than it might have otherwise been.

The road surface was pretty fast hard-packed dirt road for much of the day, but there were significant sections of washboard surface; and the last 20 miles were relatively sandy, sapping our energy.

When we finally arrived at the reservoir; hot, tired, and thirsty; we met Anna and the kids and took a quick dip in the lake. The only water source over 110 miles meant that there were also 4 other cyclists camping at the reservoir—a regular party.

A&M Reservoir
Setting up camp

As evening came, we saw a number of pronghorns come down to the reservoir to drink—Dave and I had seen at least 30 throughout the day, easily more than the number of people and cars we had seen—and as the sun descended we were treated to a beautiful sunset.

Sunset on the A&M Reservoir