Port Orford was another small, sleepy town - one of many that dot the coastline. In other circumstances, it would have been a great place to explore. But with continued murky weather, and now fog added to the atmospheric mix... I only saw mere glimpses of what was actually in front of me... somewhere. A teaser of the landscape, really... but no clear view. If nothing else, this weather was strengthening my pull to return again. Sooner rather than later.
So now rain, wind, fog... with no discernible view to speak of, I had run out of options... and nearly out of Oregon coastline as well. After waking that morning, I completed my drive along the rest of the coast and into Brookings. Brookings would have been the last town on my thru hike - the town furthest south along the coast. This day, it was my breakfast destination... and a stop to reconsider what I'd wanted to do from here. A handful of potential options presented themselves. The weather would be clearing later that day (they said) - but the forecast also said that I'd run into clearer weather yesterday, and didn't. So I didn't put a whole lot of faith in that option, and I didn't really want to drive aimlessly up and down the coast when my view was near zero. I also considered sticking around town until things looked a little better, and hiking the southern-most stretch of beach... but again, who knows how long I would have had to wait out the weather. After consulting my maps, I'd decided to continue south into Northern California. Not too far over the border was the northernmost portion of the Redwoods National Forest - big trees! I'd never seen them before, so I thought that would be a good alternate.
I took US 101 south, through the produce checkpoint at the California border, and turned inland on Hwy 199. I navigated the winding road that followed the Smith River, and did stop to get out, walk some of the trails, take some photos of the gentle giants that make up the Redwood National Forest, and simply enjoy that I could finally see what was in front of me. I spent a better part of the morning exploring this area before choosing to continue inland on Hwy 199... just to see what there was to see. The highway eventually took me back into Oregon and dumped me out into the city of Grants Pass, approximately 60 miles north of the California border, in southern Rogue Valley. I took an hour or so to explore the downtown area before moving on.
I think it was at this point that I was trying to decide whether or not to return back to the coast to continue as I'd hoped, hike some of those areas that I'd hoped to a couple of days ago... or, turn in a more eastward direction and forage my way through lesser-known and traveled roads, slowly heading home. I hadn't fully made that decision yet in Grants Pass... but, I did decide to continue the eastward travel for the time being. I staked out a mountain route between where I was and Klamath Falls, Oregon... simply because the giant lake there looked like somewhere I'd like to explore. And I couldn't honestly tell you now what route I took - I followed the Rogue River until it split north at Medford... and I continued east.
Arriving in Klamath Falls, I think, is where I truly decided to stick with the eastward meander. I could have just as easily drove north into Bend, and back to the beach... but chose to route myself next to Boise, Idaho... again, always on the lesser-traveled routes. Something in the back of my head simply said that was the best thing to do. So I'd jumped on US 97 north and cut east on state highway 676 (also known as Silver Lake Rd.), up through the nothingness that was Christmas Valley, and eventually back to some familiar territory... US Hwy 20 at the 1-gas station 'town' of Riley.
US Hwy 20 is the same road that runs within 2 miles of my house at home in the Chicago area - so I could easily stay on this road for... well, forever... and get home that way. But I didn't think that would be my plan either, as I'd done it a couple of times before in the last few years. The skeleton plan that I was developing had me possibly heading back through Grand Teton NP, north through Yellowstone NP, and even north from there to drive Beartooth Highway over the Beartooth Mountain range in southwestern Montana. That was just an idea, at this point.
I stayed on US 20 headed east for awhile more. It was getting late, and I hadn't stopped to eat. I made it into Burns, Oregon where I found dinner, and actually got a motel room (as opposed to camping in the Jeep). I decided that the next day I would stay in an eastwardly direction until reaching Tetons, and then split off from there.
Mobile photos from the day: