Amasa Back Trails (Hymasa, Upper and Lower Ahab) in Moab, Utah
There were several cars at the Amasa Back trailhead even though everything was still dripping from the previous night’s rain, and thick clouds were threatening to drop more. As I pulled to a stop Cindy and Kayley (my youngest daughter) exited the car saying they wanted to look around. I got out and began to get all my riding gear ready.
I hadn’t brought a poncho or any other type of rainproof riding cover up which I know is kind of dumb. I tugged on a long sleeve riding pullover which I was pretty sure was not waterproof, and my gloves, which of course would soon be soaked from my sweat. My video camera was in the car due to the threat of rain. Thank goodness. I had decided to take my phone since it was in a waterproof case.
Just as I put my helmet on the skies opened up into a torrential rain. I jumped back into the car (with my helmet on) wondering where the girls had gone off to. A couple of minutes later two car doors opened up and two women quickly jumped inside, sighing relief. “We found a little trail over there and went to check it out! We didn’t know we were going to get soaked,” one of them said.
The downpour only lasted a few moments, so I decided to hit the trail. I knew I was chancing getting soaked, but I had driven 11+ hours to ride and I wanted to get started.
I agreed to meet the girls in town (Moab) since the Amasa Back trailhead had no cell reception and I had no idea how long I would be riding. They were going to do some window shopping until the time I would call an plan a place to meet. After I had biked a couple hundred yards up the fire road toward the actual trailhead I looked back and saw them driving out of the parking lot. I guess maybe they had waited to see if I was going to wuss out or actually do the ride and chance the rain. Or maybe they had just been looking to change the radio station I had selected.
Amasa Back Trails Interactive Map
- Click on the green balloon for driving directions.
- Click the other icons or track(s) for other information.
About a quarter mile up the dirt road and I had reached the actual start of the trail. Four mountain bikers (two women and two men) were crowded around by the trail entry in such a way that I had to ride around them. Just as I circled them I noticed something I had never seen before. I stopped dead and interrupted their conversation.
“Is it my eyes or are you wearing a tutu,” I asked one of the fellows in the group (I later learned his name was Brian).
Brian said, “Yes, it is a tutu.”
I then asked, “How good do you feel about yourself … would you mind if I take a photo and add it to my website?”
Brian responded with, “No problem.”
After I took the photo Brian said, “Have you ever biked in Durango?”
I told him I had done a few rides there but I’d never seen anyone in a tutu. Brian then went on to explain how people in Durango donned tutus and rode from pub to pub on certain days. As I looked at him in disbelief he stated, “We really do!”
I countered with, “Okay, okay, I believe you!”
He then went on to tell me the trails (Hymasa and especially Upper Ahab) were pretty slippery … and to be careful.
As I started up the Hymasa Trail I became mad at myself for not asking the other three bikers why they were not wearing tutus. Were they not from Durango or did they realize they were not in Durango (and therefore not riding from pub to pub)? I guess I will never know the answer.
The beginning of the trail was pretty wet. But since they surface was mostly composed of sand and sandstone traction was not a problem. I had to cross a flowing stream just below the start of the trail and then began to climb a jeep road.
As with many “trails” in Moab, there are parts where jeeps and mountain bikers have to share the way. I did find several four wheel drive vehicles in the Amasa Back area and wondered about the high numbers. I later learned our week in Moab coincided with the Spring Jeep Jamboree Week.
The Hymasa Trail alternated between a nice singletrack and jeep road most of the way to its junction with the Upper Ahab Trail. The choices at that point were the Amasa Back 4×4 road or the singletrack of the Upper Ahab Trail … an easy choice for me.
Upper Ahab turned out to be a lot more technical than the Hymasa Trail below and the views were spectacular. Once on the Amasa Back ridge I focused on some incredible sights far off in the distance to the west.
I could see the Colorado River and the Potash Ponds at the far end of a humongous gorge. Drawing my focus in closer I observe a huge, slanted mesa. When I allowed my eyes to sweep further toward my feet I felt a sudden shock! The land in front my toe tips was missing! When my eyes finally focused on the bottom of the gorge (several hundred feet below) I began to get a sick kind of feeling in my stomach.
After I backed off just a little I took a bunch of photos. The only thing that kept me from spending more time on top was the freezing cold wind, and the threat of more rain.
A couple of mountain bikers passed me on the way down. I was being quite careful, maybe too careful. But the weather was cold, and the rocks were slippery. In addition, I had some real sore ribs from a fall 2 weeks earlier in Sedona, and I was demo-ing a bike I had been on just one time before.
I found everything on Upper Ahab is “roll-able.” Drops that would have been too large for me were built-up by the trail builders. I did them all, no problem. The trail requires many short climbs up slick rock boulders, which all together add up to quite a bit of climbing. I would certainly not recommend this trail for a beginner.
Fix It Time
After rounding one large boulder I came across the two riders that had passed me … one bike upside down. That usually means trouble, which it was. The guys were starting to try to patch a tire. They said they had no extra tube so I offered them one of mine (I had just bought two at the Chile Pepper Bike Shop before the ride). I was not sure if my 27.5 would fit his 29’er wheel but it did just fine. The guy said he would pay me if he had his wallet but I told him to just get an extra tube and pay it forward. Help someone else when they needed one. The guys quickly fixed the tire and soon left me far behind.
Walk Your Bike
On a stretch of the Lower Ahab I came upon a sign saying, “Walk Your Bike.” When I got closer I realized the danger. The slick rock surface of the trail was cambered at a 45 degree angle … with a 400 foot drop-off. As I approached the area another rider came along. I was lucky enough to get him to pose while standing on this treacherous part of the trail.
I finished up my ride on Amasa Back without crashing or getting rained upon and booked it down to the parking lot where I had started. I stopped only to reset my GPS (so I could record my ride into town separately) and then began my ride into town.
A Beer for the Road!
Just as I was pushing down my first pedal I heard a guy yelling from behind me so I stopped to see what was up. As I turned I saw this guy running across the parking lot holding a beer in front of him. When he got to me he said, “Hey, the least I can do is give you a beer for the tube.”
I didn’t want the guy to feel bad, so I downed the rest of a bottle of water, placed the beer in the bottle holder of my fanny pack, threw the bottle into the dumpster on the far side of the parking lot, and began to ride.
The ride back to town started out great … racing down the dirt road to Kane Creek Road (which is blacktopped). Once on the pavement the ride got worse. The wind began to blow from the east, straight into my face, getting stronger and stronger. I stopped to take photos of some garages carved into the solid sandstone cliffs (and to get a breather), then continued on.
Riding Back to Town
But then the weather turned worse. Rain, and eventually hail, began to fly horizontal into me face. Soon my pullover was soaked and freezing … but I kept pushing on. At a point when I thought I was giving maximum effort a woman blew by my on a bike and yelled. “Good afternoon!” Talk about having a positive attitude!
The hail and rain stopped and a rainbow appeared just before I entered town. When I got to the first stop light I couldn’t believe what I saw. Cindy was just turning the corner in the car. I waved and she pulled to the curb.
Sometimes I think she and I are linked together by some mysterious, underlying force. I can’t count the number of times we have come across each other at the exact same time at the end of a ride.
I loaded up the bike, peeled off my wet clothes, and pulled on my sweatshirt. I told the girls of my Amasa Back experience as I drove back to the KOA, where we were staying. I was stopped dead by the sight of the LaSalle Mountains behind our cabin … all covered by snow.
The sight of all that snow made me shiver once again, boy the hot shower at the KOA was going to feel great!
*Potash is commonly used in chemical fertilizers. A slurry containing potash is pumped into the ponds and allowed to dry. The potash is then harvested from the bottom of the ponds.
Amasa Back Data
The following information was collected by my Garmin 800 Edge … taking readings every second. Click on the title of the ride to see a better map, graphs, and all the ride details.