Nearby lie the Dufurrena Ponds, where sandhill cranes and other migrating birds feed and anglers catch largemouth bass. Rocks near here yield fire opals; at the Royal Peacock mine, May 15 through fall, you can dig for your own sparkling cache.
“Sage-brush is very fair fuel,” wrote Mark Twain in his memorable chronicle Roughing It, “but as a vegetable it is a distinguished failure.” The pronghorn antelope of Sheldon Refuge would disagree. They find plenty of sagebrush to eat on the 900-square-mile spread. From a distance, the tawny ungulates resemble white-tailed deer—until they run. Springing across the plains on slender legs, they can sprint 40 miles per hour.
Pronghorn share the terrain with wild mustangs, burros, and bighorn sheep, whose hoof marks pock the site’s side roads. Lucky travelers might spot a herd of big-horn scrambling across the highway near Adel, Oregon, east of Lakeview.
Adel is even smaller than Denio, but its combined store, saloon, and café is large in atmosphere. Duck inside to see vintage saddles dangling like chandeliers and to get a close look at taxidermy mounts of animals that roam the region. Farther into Oregon, big animals give way to big mountains. West of pretty Upper Klamath Lake, the volcanic summit of Mount McLoughlin looms over the southern Cascade Range. Here you can disappear among fir trees on the 9.3 mile High Lakes Trail, wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs. Both the High Lakes Trail and the highway pass rustic Lake of the Woods. Come the warm months, you can rent a canoe or kayak—or a cabin.
Farther west, the road drops into the Rogue River Valley, where the city of Medford anchors a landscape of rolling hills and tabletop bluffs. Stop by the Rogue Creamery and the fruit store Harry & David, or sip luscious syrah and claret at the locals’ hot spot, RoxyAnn Winery, set inside Hillcrest Orchard.