Moab: Captain Ahab, HyMasa & Rockstacker

It’s day 3 on our trip to Moab, Utah and we were headed to ride the HyMasa Trail and Captain Ahab.  These trails are located southwest of town and start in a valley that follows the Colorado River.  Today there would be no shuttle to the top of the mountain, we had to use our legs to pedal us up.

The trailhead for HyMasa.

The trailhead for HyMasa.

There is a short road climb to the HyMasa trail.

There is a short road climb to the HyMasa trail.

The elevation chart for our planned ride had us climbing for the first half of the day and descending for the second half.  After splashing through a small creek, we began our ascent.  We climbed up the HyMasa Trail, and although it was hard work and technical, this was my favorite trail in Moab so far.  The rest of the crew had shifted down and were using high cadence spinning to get up the mountain, but this was where all those hill repeats I had done this winter finally started paying off.  I shifted up and was able to attack the features with a lot of momentum.  Even though I started in last, because I was taking pictures, I quickly moved to the front of the group.

Jason Longbrake and Tim Carley on the HyMasa trail.

Jason Longbrake and Tim Carley on the HyMasa trail.

David McIntyre on HyMasa trail

David McIntyre was riding strong – up and down the mountain. He was near the front of the pack all day.

James Knott on HyMasa trail.

HyMasa trail was definitely my favorite in Moab so far. I like the climbing and the technical features were fun and didn’t have big potential consequences.

I thought HyMasa was extremely well-built and planned out and it was obvious the trail builders had put a lot of thought into it.  It’s listed as “Intermediate/Expert” on and that seems about right.  If you weren’t aggressively hitting some of the short steep climbs, then it was hard to ride up them.  There was a mixture of rock slab faces, boulders and sand to ride on, and I loved how my tires gripped onto the rock and I could propel upwards with confidence.

When we had our first big regroup at the top of the trail.  It was obvious that the previous two days of riding and the climbing at Hymasa were starting to take their toll on the group.  So although I thought the climbing was manageable, most of the guys were saying that they wanted it to be over.  There were several riders hiking their bikes and one or two reports of crashing, which always happens more when you’re tired.

The trail then becomes a Jeep road for a mile or two, but this isn’t your typical Ohio gravel road.  There were some pretty big boulders to ride up.  It was hard to imagine a Jeep riding on it, but soon enough we would see some Jeeps in action.

Pothole Arch

We took a fun trail called “Pothole Arch” on our way to the double-black “Rockstacker”

Our ultimate goal was to keep climbing until we reached a trail called Rockstacker.  I made the mistake of reading the mtbproject trail review about a mile before we got there.  It said things like:

“Some of Moab’s trickiest and most intimidating rideable features are found in this short stretch of trail, including unbrakeably steep, sandy slabs; narrow, tall, scary drops; and technical, tight switchbacks through boulder gardens. Some of this is sited above serious consequences”

“mandatory 5-foot drops”

“double black diamond”

“hardest trail in Moab”

What the hell were we doing?  I didn’t want to ride this crap.  I started feeling anxiety.  The review made it sound like hiking some of drops was difficult to impossible.  So stupid.

We turned onto the trail and almost immediately there was a huge 5-foot drop.  Our group stopped and started handing bikes down it. We had just finished limping through that obstacle, when all of a sudden there was a wicked steep 30-foot descent through boulders.  We stopped and slowly crawled our bikes down.  What were we getting ourselves into?  What was crazy to me is that both of these features are rideable.  It was obvious that bikes had gone down both of them many times.


You can see the guys hiking there bikes down one of the biggest drops we encountered.

Fortunately, the trail mellowed a little after this and we were able to actually ride our bikes, but there were still quite a few features that we hiked.  It was a similar type of terrain to HyMasa, just a little harder, but now we had some exposure and could see the Colorado River far below the cliffs.  My recommendation is that most intermediate riders should skip Rockstacker unless you are eager to hike your bike.  Save this one for the pro downhillers and get your good views elsewhere.  There are plenty of them in Moab.

Bob Welty crushing it on Rockstacker

Bob Welty crushing it on Rockstacker

hiking bikes on Rockstacker

We did a lot of this on Rockstacker.

Lunch break.

Jeeps on trail

Jeeps drove by while we were eating lunch. They were all souped up with huge tires and massive shocks. It was pretty impressive.

After this we stopped for lunch along the Jeep trail and watched a dozen jeeps drive along the road and then slowly climb up the boulders.  I had never actually seen anything like it and it was pretty amazing.  You could not pay me enough to get in one of those Jeeps for a climb.  It looked just as scary as the drops in Rockstacker and it just made me start to think, “I wonder how many people die in Moab every year?”  There are about a million ways to die here if you do something stupid.

Jeeps climbing boulders

It was amazing that these Jeeps could climb up these boulders. It looked like they might fall right off the cliff.

So with those positive thoughts flowing through my head, we began our trip back down the mountain on the Captain Ahab trail.  This is a one-way trail that is mostly downhill, so most of the guys were disappointed when we started climbing at the beginning.  I was still feeling really good about the climbing and wishing we could do that all day.  We totaled about 2300 feet of vertical on our 15-mile journey, which is about as much as you get at Mohican, but just in a shorter distance.

James Knott rides Captain Ahab

But, to the relief of most in our group, the trail started heading back down to the valley.  Captain Ahab is an expert trail that was finely crafted into the landscape.  The technical drops and climbs come at you at a rapid rate.  There is a not a lot of opportunities to soft-pedal and enjoy the scenery.  You need to be on and dialed in the whole time.  Adrenaline junkies looking for an intense ride would surely be happy with this trail.  I was playing it cautious, as I have been the whole trip, walking some of the trickier descents.  However, if I had a full-travel bike with a steeper head angle and a dropper post (which is the bike I recommend for this trail) I would want to ride more of it.

Scott Smith descending.

Scott Smith finishing up an impressive downhill section.

This trail took it’s toll on the group, several people went over the bars.  Brian Adams, the best downhiller in our group, crashed three times, and said that fatigue was one of the main factors.  I endo’d on a short downhill and landed shoulder-first on a flat slab of rock.  Amazingly, I wasn’t hurt at all.  I got up, brushed myself off and kept riding.  I guess what I’m saying is ride this trail with caution.

David McIntyre takes a break on Captain Ahab

David McIntyre takes a break on Captain Ahab. Stay to the left.

We are little ants in a massive landscape.

That being said, it is a great trail for advanced riders, and like the rest of the trails we’ve been on the scenery is amazing.  Intermediate riders can enjoy it as well, but should expect some hiking.

When we got back to the trail head, the wind picked up and it looked like it might storm.  We loaded up the van and our exhausted group was done riding for the day.

Bryan Pack broke a spoke, so we drove into town to find a bike shop.  I headed down the street with a couple of guys to the Moab Brewery for some beer tastings.  I had been dying to do since I arrived in Moab.

James Knott and Bob Welty at Moab Brewery

Bob Welty and I tasting beers at Moab Brewery. This was definitely one of my favorite stops of the trip. One of the most fascinating parts was learning about all of Utah’s strange beer laws.

When we got to the brewery, Utah’s strange beer laws became immediately apparent.  We could sit at the bar and drink beer with no food, but the bar was crowded.  To sit in the restaurant, we had to order food if we wanted to drink.  They didn’t have flights and you were only allowed to have two 65 cent 2 oz. samples in front of you at a time, but you could have a full pint with that.  All beer on draft had to be 4 percent.  Anything higher than that had to be served in a can.  It was obvious the waiter thought all these rules were ridiculous too and he helped us navigate the twisted legal limitations.

As a beer nerd, you have to give the brewery mixed reviews.  They are held back by the limitation the state puts on them.  Their IPA is only 4 percent, which is closer to session IPA.  It was delicious, but lacked the big body that you expect in an IPA.  This could be said about most of there beers.  However, this is still the best place for beer nerds to drink in Moab.  Hopefully, Utah’s legislators realize how ridiculous this seems to the rest of the world and they come to their senses.  Look what good beer has done for Colorado.

I decided to ride my bike back home, but after three beers my legs were a little sluggish.  I was really looking forward to taking a shower and drinking a big glass of ice water, when our van pulled up along the side of the road.

“Do you want to go Arches National Park?”

How could I turn that down?

So we drove 20 or 30 minutes to the park, but by the time we got there it was almost closed and they give tickets to people who don’t exit on time.  We rushed along the road to try and find some arches and by the time we got to that area the entrance had been closed to traffic.  Epic fail.  We saw some cool rock formations from a distance, took a few quick photos and headed home.

Arches National Park

My best picture from Arches National Park. This is not an arch.

Arches National Park

This was as close as we got to the arches since the ranger forced us to leave the park. There was some really cool scenery and this would definitely be worth stopping at again when we have more time.

I cleaned up and went to bed.  I was exhausted and wanted a good night’s sleep for our trip the next day.

Up next: We ride Klondike and then drive to Hurricane, Utah for a few days.

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