Table Rock Backroad – Clackamas County

I decided to get up early and try a different kind of story – I know we’ve all been visiting restaurants for a while now and I do enjoy eating quite a bit, I just want to make sure that I’m following my own self-imposed mandate which was to do stories not just about restaurants but about different things in the Willamette Valley – adventures and the like.  To that effect I found an off-highway drive in the Table Rock Wilderness that sounded pretty interesting that I thought I’d like to try to drive.  In doing so I thought it would allow me a chance drive the Bronco – you all know how much I love that, get me out of the house, and it’s been so hot lately and I was hoping that if I got a little bit of elevation that my allergies might also be positively affected as well – that is to say reduced.

I’d had breakfast at Pappy’s Greasy Spoon, so was starting there and it looked like the route was going to be around an hour and a half.  I really had no idea what to expect, except that I was planning on taking lots of pictures with a different camera and see if it captured images any better than my iPhone usually did.  The iPhone is super convenient, but I’m not always sure if it’s the best thing for this kind of work – if you think these pictures are better (or worse) let me know in the comments below.

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The first bit after Pappy’s was a very nice drive.  The road was very smooth with gorgeous early morning Oregon sun shinning down and nice long curves and few stops – not very much traffic either.  I was particularly enjoying the drive, the Bronco was doing good and the GPS was functioning very well.  I’d previously purchased a set of routes for my GPS on the internet for unpaved backroads in Oregon and one of the very few located in the Willamette Valley (the valley has a rather tame geography and I was looking for something like a four-wheel drive trail).  However, the drive was nice and I wasn’t complaining, just enjoying the morning.  Luckily I had devised a rig to be able to capture pictures while I was driving (no distracted driving folks – bad idea there folks!).

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There were some great sights along the way too – one in particular was really nice, and one that reminds me of a quintessential Oregon barn that I got a picture of was just great!  As I was driving through Iceland I always marveled at the differences between the farms and structures I saw there and the ones I was used to in Oregon – and this one I saw while driving to the Table Rock Wilderness was a typical one.  This one (unlike many I’ve seen) was still in pretty good shape.

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I also decided to try a new means to mount my phone – normally on scenic drives out in the country I try to have a primary navigation device and a backup.  In this case I’d only recently moved the Garmin GPS I use from the 300 to the Bronco, which wasn’t too much trouble, just shifting the mount.  I’d actually purchased a kit to hard-wire the GPS inside the Bronco, but like a lot of the projects I envision about it I hadn’t gotten around to it yet.  Anyhow, I’d also ordered a kit to hold the iPhone in a position where I could see it more easily when I was driving, unfortunately it turned out to not be exactly what I was looking for, it couldn’t hold the wight of the iPhone with the extended battery case I keep not he phone, so, oh, well, maybe I’ll try it without the case next time.  It was not that convenient, as it turns out that I hadn’t actually uploaded the Oregon Unpaved Backroads routes.  Grrrrrr!  Figures.  The good thing was that I had pre-planned and printed paper maps from both the Bureau of Land Management and from online, so was somewhat prepared. 

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I’d also routed through google maps, so was as prepared as I suppose I could be given that I was almost certainly going to be out of service very soon.

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Soon enough I arrived at the turn off for the wilderness.  There was a nice two lane bridge over a very pretty creek and a sign announcing most of the recreation sites and trailheads ahead.  I made sure to stop and get some pictures.  The creek was a really nice one and the patterns of sunlight and shadow falling over it made for beautiful scenery.

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I drove in further – road narrowed but the vegetation along the side of the road was beautiful and the sunlight streaming through the canopy contrasting with the shadows really made me appreciate the day and season.  I passed several recreation sites along the way and some stops where folks were pulled over and barbecuing, or visiting, or just parked (so they could ride their bicycles along the road) – there were several pairs of bicyclists along the read buy they were very courteous and didn’t present any kind of obstacle and nodded politely as I drove in the opposite direction.

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I stopped for a moment at a little side turnoff.  The river here was very slow and would have been wonderful to soak in – now I was sure of the reason a couple of the vehicles I’d seen had inflated truck tires on them – they were going to float down the river!!

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Soon after that I arrived at the gravel road – I was a bit disappointed as I had read that the route was a class two difficulty rating trail – whatever that meant.  However it just turned out to be a slightly bumpy gravel road.  I was a little disappointed, I’ll admit that I didn’t need to put the Bronco into real four wheel drive, it’s got a fancy manual hub configuration, so its always fun to get to a place where the four wheel drive is really necessary – in this case it wasn’t.

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I arrived at the end of the road at about the right time – the estimate was remarkably correct.  There was dirt piled up about ten feet high on the left side of the road and the truck was a little bit hot so I parked it for a few minutes and opened the hood.  I walked down a few feet to the ditch that had been carved out.  One of the things you’ll notice if you spend any time around spots like these are that folks sometimes don’t respect the environment – in this case folks had been shooting in the area and there were clay pigeons all around – these aren’t too bad as they are biodegradable, but the shells that get left behind can take years and years to degrade.  I picked up a couple to throw away at home and also spotted an old soda bottle that I took as well.  There was a firepit as well a little bit further – where the Bronco couldn’t get to, which I was absolutely cool with – it’s good that folks can enjoy the area and were safe about fires and the environment and nature.

I definitely enjoyed the solitude and beauty of the Table Rock Wilderness – I was a little disappointed that I’d been expecting a little more exciting drive than what it turned out to be, but it might be that the review I’d read before was an old one.  The route deserves four and a half HeyWillamettes – if you get a chance you should definitely take a drive there to check out the beautiful scenery.  There are horse trails, rivers, and gorgeous sun-dappled roads to cruise along.

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