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Warning signs marked Kim family's journey

By Drew Griffin
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MERLIN, Oregon (CNN) -- We came to Oregon to retrace the path James Kim and his family took the day they got stranded in the Rogue River wilderness.

When we finally reached the spot where the Kims' car stopped after a long, winding journey, our traveling companions -- Sgt. Joel Heller, Josephine County Sheriff's office, and John James, owner of the Black Bar Lodge -- both had the same exact thought: Why did the Kims continue down such a desolate path when they so clearly did not know where they were going?

Though it is heart wrenching to question the decisions made by a man who died trying to save his family, it is hard not to wonder. (Watch why the wrong road looked so right and how they missed the 'dead end' warning Video)

Three times, we passed large yellow signs warning that snow may completely block the roadway.

Eventually, we came to a fork in the road where a tiny sign -- almost invisible unless you actually stop the car and focus on it -- pointed the way to the Oregon Coast. The sign pointed left. The Kims drove right.

This was obviously the wrong direction. It was one lane, no guardrail, no markings, no "winding road ahead" signs, no speed limit signs, no nothing.

During our daylight journey, the road was so hazardous, so covered with snow and ice that a CNN satellite truck operator refused to continue, fearing the truck could go over the side.

The pavement began to break up, then turn to gravel, and finally to dirt.

This was an old logging road used only in summer by lodge owners hauling supplies. In winter, it was not generally in use.

In fact, beginning November 1 a gate usually blocked the road. Somebody must have broken the lock and left the gate open. Had it been shut and locked, the Kims could not have gone down the road at all.

But they did. Twenty miles down that desolate road, James and Kati Kim and their two young daughters found themselves stranded in the snowy wilderness.

By the time we came to the spot they stopped, our four-wheel-drive vehicle was being battered on both sides by overhanging branches and bushes.

This is where the Kims stayed for nine days, and the spot from which James Kim set off on foot on a journey into the Oregon wilderness that resulted in his death.

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Kati Kim was found with the couple's daughters near the family car, many miles down a twisting road.

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