Update 5/5/19: For a shorter version of this ride see Table Mountain Lite.
This short, tough ride (gpx) has all the elements that epitomize Coast Range riding: hard steep climbs, remoteness, beautiful streams, forests and meadows, interesting geology and savage clearcuts. Exiting the pastoral Harlan valley via Grant Creek road, the climb up to the Grant Cr.- Savage Cr. divide soon begins.
The road is notched by water bars, criss-crossed by wood and sided with brush, making for a steep and technical ride. Near the top on the Savage Creek side, the forest extends away down into the valley and is quiet and beautiful. At the top, there’s a lot more light:
From here all the way down the 1000 Road to Drift Creek and beyond are massive clearcuts. The first time The Logging Road Cyclist did this ride, it was very foggy, and the clearcuts extended spookily off into the mists. The roads at the top of the divide are poorly marked, so he resorted to marking the route home at strategic points using sticks and branches.
After wandering along the Drift Creek divide (where, in clear weather there are dramatic views) for a while , the road plummets down into Drift Creek itself.
This year the road seemed to have been graded a bit; previous trips found a very rocky and unsteady ride through here. By this point TLRC always feels a long way from home and starts to ponder what could go wrong with the trusty De Salvo, and if in fact he is as prepared for mechanical failures as he likes to think he is.
One of the things that makes this ride so interesting (for TLRC, at any rate) is that it intersects Drift Creek very high up in it’s drainage and follows it until close to where the wilderness area that bears it’s name begins. Drift Creek has sort of a mythical air about it since one can float through the wilderness and see the Coast Range as it was. In his canoe/kayak days TLRC did this a number of times and always wondered what was upstream. The answer is bittersweet. The Creek itself is as beautiful as one could hope, but it lies in a valley mostly denuded of trees.
The climb up to the shoulder of Table Mountain is steep, loose and relentless. Given the nature of the “forest” here, the higher one goes the better the views get. Geologically, Table Mountain is extremely interesting. Like the other big Coast Range peaks, Table Mountain owes it’s existence to a thick layer of very hard intrusive rock, which has prevented erosion from leveling it out. Unlike most of the other peaks which are supported by the dark and common rock gabbro, the top of Table Mountain is a very rare light-colored rock called nepheline syenite. Nepheline syenite has commercial uses for architectural stone, glass-making and insulation. Table Mountain nepheline syenite apparently was used to make the South Jetty at Newport. The entire top of the mountain is a grid of mining claims, and there is an entrepreneur flogging them. Let’s hope poor Table Mountain doesn’t have giant quarries added to the clearcuts, eh? A good way to pass the time on the grind up is to find where the Tyee Formation sandstones stop and the nepheline syenite begins. TLRC is aware that finding this amusing is likely a quirk of his personality.
On this trip, TLRC found himself whining and whimpering up the climb because he was so out of shape after a couple of months off his regimen. Also, he had left late to avoid ice. Thus, he cut the climb short of the actual summit and swooped back down to Drift Creek, where it had become a respectable stream.
The final climb of the ride is up the very scenic Gopher Creek Road to the paved 31 road out of Harlan. At the top of the climb, one is rewarded with these wonderful meadows (in which, on a ride to the coast from Corvallis many years ago, TLRC saw a big herd of big elks.)