Captain Ahab - Moab's First BLM Sanctioned and Approved Advanced Trail

May 1, 2013 at 22:01
May 1, 2013
by Lee Lau  
 
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Sharon and I are huge fans of the American Southwest and have been to Moab more than a few times. I was pretty excited when I heard there was a new trail in town and just about lost it when I saw the video that Tyson Swasey released about "Captain Ahab".

Tyson Swasey rides the Captain Ahab trail in Moab Utah

Tyson Swasey on Captain Ahab


This trail is approximately 4.3 miles in length dropping a total of about 1000ft in elevation (not counting the various up and downs). It officially opened on March the 31st and is accessed from Amasa Back and signed. Captain Ahab has the distinction of being the first BLM sanctioned advanced trail in Moab (the Bureau of Land Management is one of the agencies responsible for administering lands in the area).


As the video shows Captain Ahab is a classic new-school Moab trail being about views, contours, rock-benched singletrack and exquisite route-finding. As a trail builder and a rider I was probably even more stoked about the building part of the video than the riding; giggling like a kid when I saw the trail crew pry out 600 pound sandstone rocks. I knew I had to find out more about Captain Ahab so caught up with Tyson who gave me a run-down on how the trail came to be.

First and foremost, Tyson is 26 years old, grew up in Moab and works at Poison Spider Bicycles, a well-known local shop. Tyson was quick to point out that this was a team effort involving a tremendous amount of help from the Moab Trail Mix organization; a volunteer mountain bike advocacy and trail work organization sponsored by the local county government.

Kyle Mears and Tyson Swasey ride the Captain Ahab trail in Moab Utah

Kyle Mears and Tyson Swasey


29ering - Photo by Mike Curiak - used with permission
Tyson Swasey (photo by Mike Curiak - used with permission

Tyson's story started around January 2012 when he and his good friend Nick Badovinac hiked out the route of what would become Captain Ahab; walking a series of shelfs below Amasa Back. One of the prime issues with Moab trails is resolving issues arising from wildlife and archaeological impacts. Tyson and Nick addressed those issues by route selection that not only emphasized rolling terrain but avoided sensitive wildlife and archaelogical hotspots (with the aid of BLM maps).

The two then brought their route to TrailMix. With the help of tireless work from volunteers like Geoff and Sandy Freethey who head up advocacy and administration efforts, this group has won the trust of local governments while still retaining local cred and mountainbiking savvy. TrailMix promptly voted to adopt and support Tyson and Nick's route.

Trailwork on Captain Ahab
Tyson Swasey, Brian Luger on Captain Ahab - left is the trail before; right is the trail after

The next step was then to bring the route plan to the BLM. The saying that all politics is local most definitely applies to mountain biking especially when an agency like the BLM has so many responsibilities to so many user groups. Fortunately mountain bikers of Moab have Katie Stevens of the BLM to thank for helping steer the process of environmental, wildlife, archaelogical and other approvals so that construction of Captain Ahab was approved in December 2012.

A cold snowy start to winter then further delayed the start of construction. On January 20, 2013 work started. As stated earlier this was truly a team effort but particular credit must go to Brian Luger (a Trailmix employee and mountainbiker), Tyson, Geoff, Sandy as well as the army of volunteers who put in over 280+ volunteer hours of work over the next two months to clear the route and prepare the trail. Highlights included hauling in a 60 pound come-along with a 1/2" steel-braided cable to haul and place boulders & sandstone slabs.

Trailwork on Captain Ahab
Just one of the many rock steps on Captain Ahab

For more information about some other trails that add to Moab's new singletrack check out our writeup from last year (Part 1 here and Part 2 here)

For some maps check out the Trail Mix's map page here

Kyle Mears rides the Captain Ahab trail in Moab Utah

Tyson Swasey rides the Captain Ahab trail in Moab Utah

Tyson Swasey rides the Captain Ahab trail in Moab Utah

Kyle Mears rides the Captain Ahab trail in Moab Utah

Kyle Mears and Tyson Swasey ride the Captain Ahab trail in Moab Utah

Tyson Swasey rides the Captain Ahab trail in Moab Utah
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69 Comments

  • + 36
 Damn that looks like fun! I'm happy I don't have to move rocks like that to build trails. You guys are like modern Egyptians!
  • + 5
 I got to ride it a few weeks ago. So much fun! Really well built and flows like a champ.
  • - 8
 modern jews, you mean?
  • + 7
 I was making a general comment referencing pyramids, not going for historical accuracy. Relax.
  • + 1
 I have just been there (last Monday) and BOY DOES IT ROCK!!! Absolutely fantastic trail. We were mindblown.
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  • + 14
 That looks like an amazing trail. I've already heard a few quotes from people coming back from Moab over the last few weeks that this is now the best trail there!
  • + 4
 I'll let ya know how it is Wink
  • - 16
 The same crew sanitized the sh!t out of Porcupine's lower singletrack. Ahab is fun but you need to climb or push to the top. NOT a DH trail even though they tell you that.
  • + 1
 Looks sweet, but I noticed some cliffs on the right side in some high speed jump sections. Any chance of falling off, Portal trail style?
  • + 1
 rage - I saw the work of the trail Mix. That work on Lower Porc singletrack was needed. The enviros were on their case.
  • + 3
 Silly rage. Lower Porcupine flows like a champ! It's a welcome bombing descent after working your guts out through Burro and the rest. If you ain't satisfied after the Whole Enchilada, you've got issues.
  • + 2
 Ahab is awesome, but I'd just ride the lower, the upper is still pretty washed out and a lot of climbing. For a great run, take Amasa Back out to the lookout (get ready to pedal), then bomb back down and pick up Ahab and the lower junction, overall a sick ass run.
  • + 2
 @Protour - there is one corner on the cliff that could be disaster. Wicked trail. Tyson is an amazing person - not just a fantastic rider and builder.
  • + 2
 Couldn't agree more with you. The other day my friends and I did the Amasa Back to the lookout, then to the start of Captin Ahabs back to the car, we then realized that the whole first section can easily be skipped. And it would be a way more fun descent. If you get on captin ahab at the beginning, the sign is very misleading and only tells you about how much you'll be descending... The whole first section it quite a climb, pretty technical in spots, and not much like anything they show in the video. But once it gets flowy, it's super fun!
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  • + 8
 Damn, that was a LOT of work guys! But what a reward!!! Amazing trail with amazing scenery! Congrats!
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  • + 6
 Woah, tremendous effort to tweak up such a beautiful landscape into amazing trail - inspiring video guys!
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  • + 6
 top notch trail building, Super flowy immaculate trail and some gnarly fast ridin. Perfect....
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  • + 2
 I really enjoyed that video -- the time lapse of the digging and building was easily my favorite part. For some riders, it's easy to forget how much work has to go into building a great feature, not to mention an entire trail, and seeing the time lapse of the rock moving and digging and dirt replacing is a pretty cool reminder to get out and build. Smile
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  • + 3
 I was there 1 month ago. Rode this trail and it was one of the best of our entire trip and I have been there 6 times before. Hope the MOAB crew will put more trail like this one. Amazing work!!!!!
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  • + 2
 I'm headed out there in a couple weeks. Gonna give this one a try. It might not be hardcore, but I think I'll walk that section at 3:55 or so. You know, that whole risk reward thing.
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  • + 1
 Video doesn't really highlight all the climbing at the beginning and and in between sections. This is not a DH trail, but more of an advanced XC trail. All the jumpy poppy bits also tend to shoot you off line, so don't get too rowdy.
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  • + 1
 After reading a few of the comments, I think some people come to the internet just to b#$ch and moan. I suppose it's a matter of opinion, but this is a good, fun trail. Yeah, you have to climb a little -- but that's the nature of the Amasa Back area. There's a climb, and then you ride down. The climb is pretty typical of any given day out on a mountain bike -- actually it's a little more fun, because it's amazing what you can climb on that slick rock/sandstone surface. I thought the trail flowed well, especially after you start rolling down hill about 3/4 of the way in.

I do enjoy Porcupine more (the complaints of "sanitizing" the lower single track and the death of the trail are vastly exaggerated), and maybe the descent of Amasa is a little more freewheeling and fun for some, but this is a fun trail, too.
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  • + 1
 Damn nice trail...how many people are gonna fit that big ass drop and eat shit? That looks so fun I need to plan t o go there soon....what are the best time in the year to travel there? I don't mind the heat I'm from central america but I don't want to freeze my ass ether
  • + 1
 i always go in eaither APR, MAY or SEP, OCT...perfect temps
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  • + 2
 I saw the sign for this when I was there last month riding up to do a loop of Rockstacker/Jacksons and didn't go because I had never heard of it. Why oh why didn't I check it out??? Looks amazing!!!
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  • + 1
 I rode the lower section of Capt. Ahab, which is reportedly the best part, and found it fun -- but pretty mediocre. Definitely not a double diamond trail nor on par with Porcupine. I was disappointed.
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  • + 2
 Love the trail building rapid sequence at the beginning--completely stole the show. I've never built trail in that environment...quite the eye opener for me.
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  • - 1
 I just rode it last weekend. I hate to be a buzz kill but the trail was a total anti-climax. It's totally not in tune with the character of anything else on Amasa. The trail is about as exciting as Pipe Dream in town. Same great trail work, same lack of flow. If this is the same crew that sanitized Porc, that's really too bad; bye bye Porc.
  • + 2
 Maybe I'm out of it. We hit the Enchilada a few times a year. When did this "sanitation" occur?
  • + 3
 This spring. The entirety of the singletrack by the river, below the diving board and all of Porc proper, has been sanitized to make it easy enough for everyone to ride so that people would stop riding around the obstacles.

You can read more about it here:
forums.mtbr.com/utah/r-i-p-porcupine-singletrack-you-had-good-run-849219.html
  • + 2
 and on the MTBR thread you can read that the "sanitation" was closing down alternate lines and go-arounds at the request of the BLM; that the enviros were giving the bikers griefs for the trail braids and that the trail work was necessary otherwise the BLM would have had to examine the future of the lower Porc singletrack
  • + 1
 Not saying otherwise and I opted to check out some other rides this time around, nevertheless, I haven't been too impressed by the TrailMix efforts. They stack the rocks really well but overall trail design isn't all that great. I rode Pipe Dream once and noone in my group enjoyed it. We rode Ahab after playing around in the drop zone and riding Rock Stacker and were giddy to ride the new double black diamond trail, especially with all the hoopla surrounding it. We were kinda bummed that the trail felt like we rode uphill all the way down to our car and there wasn't much challenging riding.
  • + 1
 Hmmm... I'm going down in 2 weeks to hit it. I guess I'll find out. So it is all different from where you go over that last cattle guard?
  • + 1
 It's just past the drop area, where the big step up and a handful of big drops are. It's often called the false summit, before you start descending toward the power lines and the beginning of Jackson's. The lower and upper section of Ahab are now open. I presume if you're mentally prepared to just ride Ahab and know that it's a ton of uphill grind, you'll like it much more then when you expect a double black diamond downhill with delicious tech and drops.
  • + 1
 I'm lame but my favorite part of Amasa is coming back down.....drum roll....Amasa. Wide open speed, ledges and line choices galore, and flowy; it's best flow in Moab IMO. Other trails have some fun slow speed tech, but only a few spots on upper Porc before the Diving Board can compete with Amasa's descent. The hike up the final hill to the road after the sandy wash when you've done all the available trails up top is torture!
  • + 2
 The descent on Amasa is spectacular. Roller coasteresque.
  • + 1
 Just got back from moab. Lower Porc is definitely not the same. Still a blast, but totally different.
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  • + 1
 This is a great vid! Really shows all of the time and effort it takes to make a sweet trail. You guys are some dedicated builders, great work and very well done
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  • + 1
 Ride Captian Ahab this October 12-14 in Moab Rocks, a 3 stage all mountain XC with timed descents.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_V9VxDTt1c
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  • + 3
 trail is sick, thanks for the write-up
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  • + 2
 Wife rode it last week on a girls biking trip and loved it. Only trail they did more than once.
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  • + 1
 Yeah, that is one dang fun trail for sure! Hit it in March 4 days after it opened. Good flow, great challenge and some crazy exposed sections.
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  • + 2
 wow, that looks amazing. gots to make it to MOAB one of these days. Thank you for making that trail.
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  • + 1
 What tire tread/type works best out there on a trail like this? I have only been out there in my jeep. I gotta get some!
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  • + 1
 Looks fun! Hell fast too......me thinks a 1way ticket to Moab sounds the go!
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  • + 1
 It's the best trail in Moab, in my opinion. It's that good. Very nice work indeed.
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  • + 1
 Trail looks incredible, nice work guys! Must go ride this next time I am back in Moab, group trip! o_0
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  • + 1
 Racing Enduro in Moab this weekend. Maybe hit his Sunday for a cool down ride? Methinks it be wise.
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  • + 1
 I was down in Moab this Christmas. Guess ill have to go back again!
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  • + 1
 rip nine is my dream bike
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  • + 1
 Awesome looking trail , hard work always pays off
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  • + 1
 All I gotta say is plan a road trip this FALL
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  • + 1
 I want to go there soooo bad! That trail looks unreal!
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  • + 1
 Going there next week, gotta ride this!
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  • + 1
 ugh why didnt I ride it when I was there?
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  • + 1
 Guy in the green helmet is crazy fast!
  • + 2
 He's credited as Kyle Mears. I happen to know him, and yeah--he's fast. Races pro at enduros and other cool stuff. Guy can fly.
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  • + 1
 THAT IS ONE SERIOUS TRAIL!
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  • + 0
 Awesome looking trail, but are some of the riding portions of the video sped up? maybe i'm wrong, still enjoyed it though!
  • + 4
 nope dudes are just ripping! trail looks like a lot of fun.
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  • + 1
 Fabulous work! Thanks, the trail is great fun.
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  • + 1
 the moment i read it as Arab and MOAB.
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  • + 1
 Looks amazing, can't wait to get back to Moab!
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  • + 1
 That is some killer rock work! Can't wait to ride it!
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  • + 1
 you guys ripped!!!
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  • + 1
 got.to.be.there.
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