Leg 48 – One More Mountain Range, One More River, One More State: Down the Redwood Highway

Coast Range, Smith River, California. I made 75 miles today to the Patrick Creek Campground in the Smith River National Recreation Area, though 11 miles of that was backtracking to Merlin. I am only about 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean now, though a bit farther by road.

I was only thirty road miles from the Pacific where we took out from our four day raft trip down the Wild and Scenic Rogue River, but I didn’t work out the logistics of having the bicycle delivered to the take out. Plus that would mean I didn’t actually bike all the way across the country. Plus, I decided that I really should go the extra thirty miles or so to see one more natural wonder of our wonderful continent – the redwoods of Northern California. Also, the weekend bus connections to Vancouver were better from Crescent City, CA than they were from Gold Beach, OR.

I got an early start, in part since I got to bed early in order to sleep off the four days of excess stimulation and alcohol running the captivating narrow canyons and difficult drops of the Rogue and camping with my friends. I was on the road by 6:15, watching the sunlight and morning mists on the high ridges around the Rogue.

On the way in last week I noticed a sign for Route 199, aka Redwood Highway, via a forest service road just two miles from Galice, but when I checked that road out on Google Maps, it showed a 4000’ climb, stretches of gravel, and just as many miles as the preferred Google route of backtracking to Merlin, then riding Oregon 260 to Rte 199.

So I stayed on the paved roads. I did not expect to see coffee before Wilderville at mile 25, but there was a little gas station and convenience store at mile 18, so I stopped for coffee and and an unexpectedly good blueberry muffin there. I was a little self conscious about locking my bike up in a small town, but the sign in the bathroom said “Drugs Are Illegal In Oregon Please Don’t Flush Your Needles Down the Toilet,” so maybe it was a good idea. More than one person has described this part of Oregon to me as being full of meth heads who will rob you blind, though I don’t think I have met any.

Several people have warned me about Rte 199 being one of the most dangerous roads in America, too. But when I reached it near Wilderville, it had nice wide shoulders, of a lot of traffic. I climbed one hill to get into the Illinois River Valley, and eventually reached Cave Junction, where I planned my lunch and groceries stop.

I was there a little early, so I rode the the west side of town then backtracked a few blocks to Taylor’s Sausages, which offered a lunch menu in addition to cases and cases of sausages and smoked meats. I sample their chicken-apple sausage in addition to a crispy chicken salad and fries. While I was eating, the Maitresse D’ slid into the bench by the upright piano near my table and began belting out ragtimes.

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After Cave Junction, the road climbed and climbed and eventually reached a sign saying “Welcome to California.” I biker on a motorcycle from Tennessee was standing by the sign and we chatted about cross country two wheeled travel. His butt gets sore, too, but he has only been riding about eight days to get here, plus some family stops along the way.

At the agricultural inspection station, the inspector waved me on, but warned me to “be careful in the canyon.” Then the road went through a tunnel and deposited me in the Smith River canyons, another ten miles of mostly descending curvy and narrow roadway that was not the worst road I have ridden on. I got to the campground at three thirty, and once again was glad I reserved ahead, because it looks like they are full.

I think I will take a walk up the Patrick Creek trail, which apparently leads to a lodge where they will have beer and they might even have WiFi.

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