Legacy of Discovery


I had thought that we would be getting drenched on the trip and be forced to stay in a “prison cell” on our little “cattle barge” but there was not much rain although we were subject to quite a bit of strong, cold wind; and just getting "damp" going back and forth between my "Prison Cell" on deck 3, and the "Feeding Trough" on deck 1. There is NO INTERNET available for the entire week.

Discover the legacy of Lewis & Clark, the Nez Perce, and early pioneers as you journey along the Columbia & Snake Rivers. From the shores of the Pacific to the peaks of Hells Canyon, included excursions and presentations highlight the region's early American history. This is an almost identical trip to the one I took with Cruise West in 2005.

• Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and Multnomah Falls
• Learn about Merriwether Lewis and William Clark's Corps of Discovery expedition from onboard historians, presentations, and visits to historical sites
• Transit eight (just 7) locks and tour the Bonneville Dam Visitor Center
• Jet boat ride into Hells Canyon
• Visit Astoria Column and Columbia River Maritime Museum
• Tours to Fort Clatsop, Maryhill Museum, Hanford Reach, and Columbia Gorge Interpretive Centers
• (SKIP) Private tour, tasting, and picnic lunch at Terra Blanca Winery & Estates Vineyard
• Hear tales of the Nez Perce and early American pioneers

DAY 1, Saturday, Apr 8: Nightmare to Portland, Oregon – Embarkation
With the new flight schedule I was supposed to get a safer layover in Denver), but will have to schedule an early pickup by the StuporShuttle at about 5 (5:07) AM. I can skip a breakfast at home since I’ll get several times to feed myself. However, the awful gremlins were out in full force and set for a “kill.” First the Shuttle was running a bit late, then we had 3 other pickups to make, giving us a full tour of downtown Houston. There was no time left when we got to the airport except for checking in then a hurried up “run” to the gate for a short wait then boarding. No time for “breakfast.”

We gain an hour on each flight segment. I supposedly now have a much safer connection time in Denver and the weather should be good. If the weather cooperates in Portland, the 7:20AM flights should definitely get to Portland in plenty of time. Weather forecast: Good weather in Houston and Denver, some showers in Portland.

United UA 75Houston – Denver7:20 – 8:532:332:27

At least that was what the schedule said. As it turns out, only the flight number and the two airports are correct. First we were delayed about 45 minutes while maintenance supposedly fixed a problem on the aircraft but after we had taxied out on the runway, it was then determined that the fix didn’t meet FAA standards. The plane was officially grounded. We went back to the gate and set there for quite a while as the officials determined if another plane was available. By the time we got unloaded and walked a few miles to the new gate, and then got everything loaded we were about 2 hours behind schedule and there was apparently only 30 minutes left of the 2:30 connection time in Denver.

We did get there in time for a long (distance and time) 10 mile hike from gate 8 to gate 55 and I arrived just as they were about to close the gate. But did my luggage make it? It’s going to be another stomach churning flight, and still no breakfast – not that I feel safe trying to eat anything.

United UA 276Denver - Portland11:20 - 1:032:437:43

Another case of just the flight number and airports .... As we had just pushed back, it was determined that the plane luggage loading wasn’t in balance so we had to re-dock and get things re-arranged. When that was done, we again pushed back and taxied out to the runway but were then told that we had to hold our place while the authorities recalculated out weight balance to load into the plane computer. However somehow the authorities forgot about us and it was a total of over an hour before we had clearance to take off. Now the worry was whether the plane, and my luggage, and I would make it Portland in time for the transfer to the hospitality center and on to the ship.‘’ More stomach churning and another skipped meal.

Fortunately, we made it, both me and the luggage, and thankfully there was an Un-Cruise representative still waiting – since as it turned out there were 5 guests on that flight. Hopefully the weather in Portland is MUCH better than it was in the first three months of the year. The weather was better than had been forecast so we finally made it to the Hospitality Center. They did indeed have a fairly nice selection of munchies for us while we were waiting - welcome since my stomach had been too churned up to eat either the included breakfast (first flight) and lunch (second flight). before boarding the S.S. Legacy (the former Cruise West “Spirit of ‘98”) in Portland. Have our luggage checked in at the Hospitality Center at the World Trade Center; the Glass House, by 3:30 for the transfer to the boat about 4:45. It was only a short 3-block walk in the cold, damp wind to get to the boat.

The “Commander” prison cell I now have is much better than what was originally set up – larger and “better furnished”. In fact, after taking a brief look into what was to have been my prison cell, I might well have just looked in on arrival and turned around to go back home. Awful! The big problem with my cabin is that since it isbeing at the front of the barge, there could be quite a large “herd of cattle” gathering for sightseeing right outside the cell – but that turns out NOT to be a problem due the cold wind. The cold wind also makes it uncomfortable (shivering cold) on the open deck when going and coming from the prison cell. But at least there are only 37 “cattle” on this cruise; not the 88 that the ship can hold.

This is a "Chairman's Cruise" but we don't get special presentations and opportunities with our Guest Host. I also get a shipboard credit of $50 for whatever (gratuities?), but probably for alcoholic drinks which I don’t drink and are free/included anyway, so it is a total waste. The Chairman, Tim Jacox, is a nice gentleman – we had a few very interesting conversations.

When onboard, don’t enjoy champagne or the hors d’oeuvres before what turned out to be a very nice dinner, then gather in the (not-so) “Grand Salon" (Lounge) for a presentation about our upcoming weeks’ journey through time – and the often poor weather. The trip begins in Portland, and the shipboat sailed down the Willamette to where it joined the Columbia River. Over the next week, the boat traveled upstream over 350 miles on the Columbia and Snake Rivers all the way to Clarkston, Washington, passing through 8 (make that 7) locks on its voyage. In Clarkston, the ship turned around and we traveled back downstream about 465 miles all the way to Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia where it empties into the Pacific Ocean. This journey traces much of the last section of Lewis & Clark's adventure. Leaving Astoria, the boat sails back upstream to Portland where we disembark. The ship travels through green mountains, rich agricultural areas, and dry desert--quite varied scenery!

Tonight, after dinner, we gather in the (not-so) “Grand Salon" (Lounge) for a presentation about our upcoming weeks’ journey through time – and probably some rain. However for the first part of the trip at least, it was the cold wind that was much more of the problem.

Side note: This is the Legacy’s first cruise of the new season. Like many of Un-Cruise boats, it spent the winter in Un-Cruise’s home port of Seattle. So it had to do a re-positioning cruise south to Portland during which it had very bad weather and encountered 15 foot waves. Wow! NO THANKS.

DAY 2, Sunday, Apr 9: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Early this morning the boat passed through the first of eight locks on the Columbia and Snake Rivers and we were at the Bonneville Lock and Dam. Each day, the ship had early riser breakfast Nibbles starting at 6:30 am in the lounge. breakfast Nibbles is served in the dining room at 7:30 am each day.

Near the Columbia River Gorge entrance sits Beacon Rock—Lewis & Clark camped here on their way to the Pacific. This spectacular canyon cuts the only sea-level route through the Cascade Mountain Range and is a designated National Scenic Area. Once the core of an ancient volcano, the intrepid explorers debated between “Beacon” or “Beaten” Rock before naming it. Its native name translates to “the navel of the world.” As you cruise upriver, the heritage team shares the history of their famous expedition.

After sailing about 40 miles overnight from Portland, the boat arrived at the Bonneville Lock and Dam, which is operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers. At the locks of Bonneville Dam, take a private tour of the massive turbines and fish ladders at the dam’s Visitor Center. Since 1938, this historic landmark has supplied hydroelectric power and river navigation. Travel on to towering Multnomah Falls, the tallest falls in Oregon.

Tour of Bonneville - The goal of the Bonneville project was to improve navigation on the Columbia River and to deliver hydroelectricity to the Pacific Northwest. At the time that Bonneville was completed in 1938, the powerhouse, spillway, and navigation lock were one of the country's largest public works projects and part of President Roosevelt's program to provide jobs to American workers during the Depression. About 3,000 people worked at Bonneville from 1933 to 1938, and many other jobs were added in other locations around the USA to build the turbines, generators, etc. The government completed a second powerhouse in 1981, and a larger navigation lock in 1993. The first powerhouse had two generators, the newer one has ten.

We boarded our bus for the short ride to the Bonneville visitor center, and one of the Corps of Engineers park rangers The tour was done by a service member of the COEs. Really Excellent. We have a briefing about how hydroelectricity works. He said it was the same briefing given to elementary school groups. We then toured the facility, checking out the fish ladder used by salmon and other fish to go around the powerhouse turbines. We enjoyed going downstairs in the visitor center to view the fish going up the ladder and learning how the fish are hand counted by humans who have to also identify the species. It's harder than it sounds. His tour was really excellent – the highlight of the day.

We had a nice view of Table Mountain and hearing how a humongous landslide, believed to be the largest on North America, once spilled down this mountain and blocked the Columbia River. Scientists have used radiocarbon dating of a large fir tree buried at the bottom of the rubble to determine that the landslide probably occurred between 1550 and 1750, so it wasn't that long ago in geological time. They are certain that the landslide was caused by an earthquake, perhaps one offshore in the Pacific Ocean. This landslide formed a dam whose undercarriage was ultimately eaten away by the water and evolved into a land bridge over the Columbia. This may have led to a Native American legend of "The Bridge of the Gods" which has been handed down even to today. However, the river was significantly narrowed, which led to the Cascade Rapids that travelers like the Lewis and Clark expedition had to portage around.

It was interesting to see sea lions at the base of the powerhouse. They swim 145 miles upstream from where the Columbia River pours into the Pacific Ocean for a feast of disoriented fish who have come through the turbines or out of the fish ladder. This has to be somewhat upsetting to those who have worked so hard to restore habitat and increase the numbers of salmon moving upstream to spawn.

Before returning to the boat for lunch, the buses stopped at Multnomah Falls. Multnomah Falls is just a short distance from the Bonneville Lock and Dam. However, this spectacular 611-foot cascade is worth a stopover. The historic lodge that sits at the foot of the falls was designed by the architect A.E. Doyle, completed in 1925, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

We didn’t really have much free time to walk up to Benson's Bridge over the falls, take photos, and browse the gift shop. That was very disappointing. Also, trying to take pictures of the falls meant taking pictures into the sun - unsuccessful. The buses got us back to the ship just in time for lunch, and the ship continued its upstream voyage on the Columbia River. While returning to the boat we were told the dinner menu including beef chili. Great!! But it turned out to be a thick bean soup with some turkey bits – and had just been shown a picture of a chili and told that it was chili. Very disappointing.

Leaving Multnomah Falls, the Legacy sailed through the spectacular Columbia River Gorge. The weather was fairly decent (but cold and windy). On earlier trips this was a very active wind-surfing area, and the surfers were really interesting to watch. No chance this trip, however.

After lunch, we would have liked to stay outside on the decks, taking photos of the gorge as the scenery changed from mountains covered with trees to a drier climate but the wind was so strong and cold that pictures from inside the lounge was the only option. It did calm down a bit in the late afternoon and the sun even came out for a while. We sailed past Hood River, Oregon, and even caught a glimpse of Mt. Hood.

The “Gorge” is one of the nicest (beautiful) areas along the cruise, and I was definitely looking forward to the scenery on this part of the trip. At 80 miles long and up to 4,000 feet deep, the Columbia River Gorge canyon cuts the only sea level route through the Cascade Mountains. It is a very popular area for wind surfing, hang-gliding, and other related activities. That can make for “nice” scenery, weather permitting, but unfortunately it didn’t permit.

The presentation lecture tonight is about “Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery” - their expedition and experiences – it was very good as expected.

COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE: The walls of the Columbia River Gorge expose the tremendous geologic history of the region as they rise up to over 4,000 feet where they meet Larch Mountain. The region’s fiery origins, owing to the volcanic Cascade Mountains, left layer after layer of molten lava—also known as flood basalts—creating the land mass that is now Washington and Oregon. These layers can be seen along the steep walls of the gorge.

Later, floods of water further eroded and carved the land into its rugged, present-day beauty. At the end of the last Ice Age about 15,000 years ago, ice dams repeatedly broke allowing enormous floodwaters originating near Missoula, Montana, to scour a path down the Columbia River corridor. Rushing water reached as much as 1,000 feet high and traveled at speeds close to 100 miles per hour. Ripping and tearing at the sides of the river valley and removing huge quantities of rock, gravel, and debris, the floodwaters deposited this material in the Walla Walla and Willamette Valleys as they slowed in speed. This deposited material, called Loess, is the reason these two areas are so agriculturally rich.

People have called this region home for over 13,000 years, drawn to the fertile land and water that provided abundant resources; cedar and fir, salmon and steelhead, beaver, and big game. The only sea-level passage through the Cascade Mountains, the Columbia was the route for intrepid pioneers and explorers who ventured westward and, today, is vital for the transport of goods and generation of power.

MULTNOMAH FALLS: A short distance from Portland, Oregon’s Multnomah Falls drops a soaring 620 feet down in three thunderous steps; one drop is 9 feet, one 542 feet and one 69 feet. Officially regarded as the tallest falls in Oregon, a number of sources also claim that Multnomah Falls is also the 2nd highest year-round waterfall in the United States. Beginning in the Larch Mountains from a spring, Multnomah Creek travels toward the falls collecting snowmelt and rainwater along the way. During unusually cold weather the waterfalls have been known to freeze, turning the plummeting water into a massive icicle, creating a playground for ice climbers.

DAY 3, Monday, Apr 10: Snake River Cruising
The next day we sailed all day except for a brief un-pre-planned excursion ashore. It rained overnight but cleared fairly early but still lots of wind. After an early morning transit of McNary Dam. Just as the day started, we passed by the junction of the Columbia and Snake Rivers making the turn about 6:30 and shortly after that, we had a very good breakfast. But back on October 24, 1805 after crossing in canoes, Clark's diary entry describes it as foreboding. Today, hillsides reveal the vineyards of some of the area's more than 200 wineries. Glimpse the surrounding wheat fields of the Palouse—one of the nation's top wheat growing regions—and pass by massive wind farm turbines atop riverside hills.

The Legacy took the Snake and we continued into a drier, more desolate land. The farm houses were few and the highways even fewer. The dry desert shoreline was interesting, and many of the rock formations had unusual shapes. Many of these formations were given names by the early explorers to assist others on their river journeys.

Our mid-morning lecture is: “The Geology of the Pacific Northwest”. It was interesting as they discussed / described how ancient geologic turbulences reshaped the geologic formation in the entire region. Also mentioned was how a probable “super volcano” centered about where Yellowstone N P is located, really altered the geology of the world. Can/will it happen again?

After a not-so-great lunch, about 2PM, we have our short shore excursion to go and see Palouse Falls. This is an added excursion set up when it was thought that there would be problems getting through the last lock/dam sequence and a bus transfer would be needed. We had to do a 20-passenger jet-boat transfer from the ship to the shore (two trips necessary) because the ship couldn’t get through the tight, twisting opening into the harbor area. Then it was about a 20-minute coach ride (our usual large coach) to the Palouse State Park location.

The Palouse Falls are a run-off from a rain basin that found its way through a volcanic era formed “dry falls” which falls into another volcanic formation – a wide coulee basic. Although the area averages only about 7” of rain per year, there can be a lot of run-off going down to the Snake River. The Falls are not dry now; it is a 192’ fall with varying amounts of water. It is much less later in the year. But not it is very pretty. At some times, depending on how the wind and light was positioned, we could see up to three rainbows. After being there for about an hour, we had to do the coach-jetboat transfer in reverse to get back on to our boat.

As usual, the “Happy Hour” munchies are seafood based. Yuck! More changes – after getting conflicting reports all day about whether the last of the 8 lock/dam facilities would be operational, we got the official word just before dinner – closed. So Plan-B, re-re-repeat: anchor tonight in some “secluded” safe location where we wouldn’t be run over during the night by some other river traffic. Then tomorrow we will take those small jet=boats back to the harbor to re-board out coach for a 1 ½ hour ho-hum coach ride to where we will take our very delayed jet-boat ride. Because of the delay from the long coach ride, it won’t be as long as the boat ride we were originally to get.

Our dinner tonight wasn’t all that appealing – making it two out of two for the day. The after-dinner presentation is the “Culture and History of the Nez Perce Indians”. Also discussed was how much the copying the shoes and clothing of the native Americans facilitated the explorers journey. Many Native American tribes collected beads and the early explorers brought beads as gifts and to trade. What Lewis and Clark and others didn't know was that the Natives in the Snake River valley greatly preferred the blue beads to any other color.

SNAKE RIVER: For Lewis & Clark, the Snake River was an area of almost continual rapids and waterfalls. The largest tributary of the Columbia, the Snake begins its long course in Wyoming. During the time of exploration by non-Natives, the river was given many names. The river’s final, lasting name was given somewhat in error; the hand gestures made by the Shoshone when asked the river’s name actually described the action of fish swimming upstream, not the motion of slithering reptiles.

The Snake winds through ranch land, some of the largest family-owned apple orchards, and untouched open spaces including several areas that were set aside as wildlife refuges by the Corps of Engineers. Many small scenic parks dot the shoreline and certain stretches of the river offer excellent wildlife viewing, including sightings of the rare white pelican near Ice Harbor Dam, and osprey, golden eagles, and numerous species of hawk along the cliffs, bluffs, and shorelines. Though today, numerous dams and locks produce hydroelectric energy and ensure faster, safer travel for vessels of all types, the 10-mile section along Hells Canyon is designated a “Wild and Scenic” river.

DAY 4, Tuesday, Apr 11: Clarkston, Washington / Hells Canyon
Up early as usual for the Early Riser Nibbles at 6:30, and breakfast as 7:30, then at 8:30, after another shuttle ride on the same jet-boat as last night, we are off on our un-pre-planned long bus ride from where we had anchored last night and we finally arrive in Clarkston to begin our Hells Canyon adventure and to delve into the history and culture of the Nez Perce people. Historical sites connected to the Lewis and Clark Expedition abound in this area, including Clark’s first encounter with the Nez Perce in 1805.

Clarkston is at the end of the navigable section of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Clarkston has over 30,000 residents, is reachable by ocean-going vessels, and is Idaho's only sea port. This is an actual seaport in the middle of what seems a totally landlocked area. Of course, the town is 465 river miles from the Pacific Ocean, but river boats and cargo vessels make the trip routinely, passing through 8 locks with an elevation change of 725 feet above sea level going upstream from Astoria. In contrast, the locks of the Panama Canal only go up a total of 85 feet, so these are some deep locks!

At 10 am, two small covered jet boats from Riverquest Excursions pulled alongside the Legacy, and we get aboard for the ride and the promised lunch en-route.

Hells Canyon is North America's deepest river gorge at 7,993 feet. This free-flowing river stretch of the Snake, hemmed in by vertical cliffs, cuts its way through North America’s deepest river gorge. Protected as a National Recreation Area since 1975, Hells Canyon preserves a world of fascinating natural and cultural elements. We watch dramatic scenery unfold as we jet upriver and keep our eyes peeled for bighorn sheep, golden eagles, and 7,000-year-old Indian petroglyphs, reminders of the Nez Perce people that were the earliest inhabitants of the canyon.

Since we only had some class 1 and 2 rapids, the ride was “reasonably” smooth but still fun as the narrow boats made their way upstream. We zipped along the river for about an hour and a half before stopping for a really great BBQ lunch at Garden Creek Ranch, which was about 50 miles from where we started and on the Idaho side of the Snake River. We enjoyed lunch there and still had time to walk the grounds.

Our group re-boarded the boats and went further upstream into the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, stopping to watch some Rocky Mountain big horn sheep scampering across the cliffs. We turned around near the point where the Salmon River ran into the Snake (about a dozen miles into the Recreation Area), but were still over 60 miles from the Hells Canyon Dam.

The only bad part of the trip: due to the plastic side curtains to protect us from wind and water, I couldn’t get any pictures at all. The curtain interrupts the camera’s ability to focus to no in-focus pictures were possible.

Then it was the run back down river. We saw several big-horn sheep and also stopped to see some of the petroglyphs. Once we got back to the marina we still had to face that long drive back to the boat and yet another jet-boat ride back to the ship. I ate enough of the BBQ at lunch to make up for a small dinner last night, lunch today, and I didn’t bother to go to dinner. The presentation tonight is on the “Wines of the Pacific Northwest” but I can skip that.

CLARKSTON: Nestled at the intersection of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers in Washington State, Clarkston is the gateway to Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in North America. Before incorporation in 1902, the area was known as Jawbone Flats. In honor of the Corps of Discovery’s leaders William and Meriwether, Clarkston sits just across Lewiston, its sister city in Idaho. Clarkston benefits from a Mediterranean climate and while it has an active and important port, it is predominantly an agricultural region.

HELLS CANYON: Nez Perce legend says that Coyote dug out Hells Canyon with a stick to protect his people in Oregon’s Blue Mountains from the treacherous Seven Devils Mountains. The deepest river gorge in North America, Hells Canyon is perpetually being carved ever deeper by the Snake River. Full of history, geology, wildlife, and breathtaking scenery, this canyon stretch of the Snake is designated as a national recreation area and is one of the last remaining free-flowing sections of this “Wild and Scenic” river.

When measured from He Devil Mountain, the canyon plunges nearly 8,000 feet—2,000 feet more than the Grand Canyon at its deepest point. The west rim, which is in Oregon, drops one mile to the river, and the east rim in Idaho drops 7,400 feet below the Seven Devils Mountain range. The 10-mile canyon remains pristine and remote.

Massive mountain areas that were once part of the ocean floor were uplifted when oceanic and continental plates collided, creating jagged peaks abundant with limestone deposits. Then, ancient volcanic activity flooded layer after layer of basalt and about 6 million years ago, the Snake River began its work of carving the canyon into the plateau. As a result of the carving, unique columnar basalt formations stretch skyward forming the canyon as you see it today. Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, bald eagles, great blue herons, elk, and mule deer can all be found in Hells Canyon.

Pictographs and petroglyphs of the region’s Native inhabitants can still be barely discerned on the canyon walls and archeological artifacts from encampments can be found. Once the beloved and traditional lands of the Nez Perce, in the late 1870s, the tribe was driven out by conflict. At the famous Nez Perce crossing, Chief Joseph and his people, including women and children, were forced to swim across the swollen Snake River as they fled in hopes of reaching freedom and safety in Canada. Still an important area for the tribe today, the Wallowa band of the Nez Perce gathers nearby every summer for a Friendship Feast and Powwow.

DAY 5, Wednesday, Apr 12: Richland / Nap time
Having cruised downriver most of the night, the boat arrives at Richland and for a few hours we are “parked” in "beautiful downtown Richland", which is next to a dump site (“nice scenery” while we have breakfast) which looks like it may be a metals recycling site with the junk loaded onto barges (one is there now) for transport to some recycling center. There is also a nearby processing plant. Is the dump an omen of the day? There are also about a dozen FedEx trailers here – maybe this is where they come to “lose” all those packages.

What is planned: After breakfast, (note: I made a decision to just do the alternative - see below.) we are scheduled to head out at 9:15 and as we disembark we have to thread our way out and back in through the dump to get to the bus for a couple of visits in Richland. One is very interesting and I wish I could skip the other (no, it's not allowed to just stay on the coach - which would be almost as boring).

The first visit (the very interesting one) is at the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center to learn the region’s geologic history—from basalt flows and Ice Age floods to today’s living landscape (which would link very well with the evening presentation a couple of days ago). We have a chance to see “Baby Ems”, a cast of the world’s only complete baby woolly mammoth skeleton. Then we learn about the monumental efforts of the Manhattan Project and Hanford Engineering Works that ushered in the atomic era – which I know a little bit about since I have that interest in WW II. This was the good part of the excursion and the only reason I didn’t plan to just stay on board the boat and sleep.

Unfortunately, we are then subject to / have to suffer through a very dull, boring (but I can't just take a nap on the bus) stop. Glimpse the “sweeping views of the Red Mountain AVA” while touring and (not) wine tasting at Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyard. We have a lunch (??) of sorts here. It is probably more like a series of nibbles and sample more booze. Then back on board and watch the scenery change as we cruise back downriver toward The Dalles.

My new schedule: Since today is not a full-day excursion like yesterday – much shorter – and after I found out that the visit to the research center wouldn’t be more than about 45 minutes and then LOTS of time at the winery, I decided to just stay on board. There are a small number of others who are staying, and the staff will even make me a very nice cheeseburger for lunch. I can straighten out all the stuff that is now scrambled in my suitcase and also have time to update my trip notes on the computer - and even take a nice nap. The way the weather turned out, I think I definitely made the right choice; it was gloomy, medium overcast, a bit breezy, and frequent light sprinkles/rain showers (as had been forecast). Wandering around that winery open areas would not have been enjoyable.

Back to "Real time": About 10AM, after most everyone had been kicked off the boat and were out of the way, a large 18-wheeler truck from a grocery supply company backed up through the dump’s open area to close to the boat and almost the entire crew was mobilized to do the unloading (heave-ho) passing boxes and bags from hand to hand to get them from the truck to onboard for stowing. It was quite a sight.

After everyone gets back from their winery mis-adventures, we still hang around the dump for quite a while (no more groceries but the parking fees must be really cheap) then head off downriver through the fog and almost constant light drizzle. The decks are getting somewhat dangerously slippery in some placees. The fog (maybe very low clouds) is heavy enought that sometimes we can see the banks of the river clearly; sometimes we can barely see them, much less where we are going.

Eventually we have an excellent dinner then tonight’s presentation is “The River That Won the War.” It is about the part that the Columbia River area, and the Pacific Northwest played in WWII. Jenny plays her role as “Rosie, the Riveter.” It’s a great presentation.

RICHLAND: At the confluence of the Yakima and Columbia Rivers, Richland today has a population of nearly 50,000. Once an important site for the Wanapum, Yakakam and Walla Walla who harvested fish during salmon runs, the land was purchased by W.R. and Howard Amon in 1905 as a proposed town site.

During the war years in the 1940s, the town was purchased by the US Army as a bedroom community for workers on the Manhattan Project at the Hanford Nuclear Site. In just two years the population soared from 300 to 25,000. The last production reactor at the Hanford Nuclear Site was shut down at Hanford in the late 1980s and the city has transitioned to environmental cleanup and technology.

DAY 6, Thursday, Apr 13: The Dalles, Oregon / Maryhill Museum / Columbia Gorge Discovery Center
“The Dalles” is a Columbia river town in Oregon near the historic site of the Celilo Falls on the Lewis and Clark Trail. The town's official name is The Dalles, which came from the US Post Office requirement. Oregon also has a town named Dallas (like the city in Texas), and many people misspelled both names, causing mail confusion. So, the Postal Service added a "The" to this one. "Dalles" comes from the French word for a paving stone called dalle and only has one syllable.

The Dalles is famous for three diverse industries not usually included on a tour--its creosote railroad ties, a huge Google data center (about 2000 employees there and they are doing a 2000-square-foot expansion…or is it 10,000?), and maraschino cherries. As a perk, Google provides free internet service for the whole town. Of course, The Dalles has several wineries (luckily, we aren’t subjected to another winery visit)) and a fascinating history because of its location on the Columbia River.

Yes, we again had light rain overnight – that has become the standard weather pattern - and the wind is strong and cold this morning. The wind even blew my cabin door open twice during the night. The boat docked near the downtown area of The Dalles in the early morning. After our usual breakfast, we go out to board our bus at 9:15. But there is a special greeting by a group of several ladies, the Chamber of Commerce “Floozies,” dressed in period attire, to tell us about the “special attractions” of “The Dalles.” It was a “fun” greeting.

It’s a day of culture at Maryhill Museum and the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. Our first stop is at the Maryhill Stonehenge War Memorial. The Maryhill Stonehenge War Memorial was the first monument in the United States to those who lost their lives in World War I. Millionaire Sam Hill, who loved this region, built this two-thirds full-scale replica of the original Stonehenge in England on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River. It honors the 13 Klickitat County soldiers who died in the First World War. Another monument nearby honors the Klickitat soldiers who died in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. The Stonehenge site, being a two-thirds full-size replica, doesn't make the immpression like the "real thing". After a somewhat brief stop here (we are allowed only 10 minutes here and I could have stayed twice as long), we travel on just a short distance to the Maryhill Museum.

Sam Hill's grave and modest grave marker is a short distance down the cliff below the Stonehenge Memorial. Leaving the Stonehenge War Memorial, we head on to the Maryhill Museum. With its eclectic collection of European paintings, Native artifacts, and the Queen of Romania’s personal effects, the Maryhill Museum — a castle-like chateau — sits on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. We will come back to the boat for lunch then go out again to visit the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. Today the Maryhill Museum is an interesting place to spend some time. Since I’ve been here twice before, it doesn’t have quite the impression / impact as it did the first time. From the terraces, the scenery overlooking the river valley is fantastic.

Sam was quite a world traveler, and he developed friendships with famed dancer Loie Fuller, Queen Marie of Romania, and San Francisco heiress Alma de Brettewille Spreckels. When Maryhill was finished but never lived in, Ms. Fuller persuaded Sam Hill to transform it into a museum. Unfortunately, neither of them lived to see the museum open in 1940, but Ms. Spreckels became a force for the facility and worked for over 20 years on its permanent exhibits.

The museum has a varied collection, with some items like a throne and gown from Queen Marie, and items from dancer Loie Fuller. The museum also has an excellent collection of Native American artifacts, a gallery of Rodin sculptures and art, and other pieces. Some of the presentations they have now are different from those a few years ago. They did have to get rid of their peacocks – messy and too aggressive. On the way back to the boat, the coach makes a brief stop at Rock Fort, where the Lewis and Clark expedition camped. On our way back to the boat we are caught up in a traffic jam caused by a road re-destruction project and lose another 20 minutes or so.

After our delayed departure from Maryhill, and even more delays on the way back to the ship, we have a so-so lunch before heading off on another by then very delayed bus excursion to the nearby Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. This large facility overlooking the Columbia River Gorge is the official interpretive center of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and has exhibits on Native American culture, Lewis and Clark, flora and fauna of the region, and the Oregon Trail pioneers. There's also an interesting section of the building devoted to Ice Age theories, mega-mammals, and the geological formations of the Columbia Gorge during the Missoula Floods.

This was really quite interesting. It is definitely my favorite stop of the day. I don’t remember seeing as much the other times I was here back in the early 2000s. The Discovery Center's interactive exhibits provide a life-sized look into the area's volcanic upheavals, Ice Age, periods of severe flooding, native heritage, pioneer and missionary life; as well as the Lewis and Clark Expedition. There is also a couple of rooms related to local history and heritage.

Although the exhibits are well done and interesting, the best part of the visit was a presentation with three different live raptors who are kept at the center. These birds of prey were all injured and cannot return to the wild. They are used for educational purposes and provide the chance to see birds like Great Horned Owls, Red-tailed Hawks, and Sparrow Falcons up close. The presenter, Bambi, treated them much as if they were her children. It is very similar to the Raptor Center in Sitka but doesn’t do medical rehabilitation. It is mostly just an education. But in Alaska, since we never got an organized presentation there (they were always too busy), this fantastic presentation was far more interesting and had a much greater appeal and impact.

Leaving the Discovery Center, the bus got us back on the boat by 4:15 (along with our now standard light evening sprinkle/shower) and we had a pre-departure information presentation at 5:30 – Happy Hour. We then sailed downstream towards Astoria. We had some spectacular sunset views of the red rocks of Columbia River Gorge. Dinner tonight is another loser (three tries but nothing appeals) so I just skipped it. Our presentation tonight is a “talent show.”

THE DALLES: The area now known as The Dalles was a prominent trading post for Native people for over 10,000 years and today is one of the most important archeological regions in the country. Known as the end of the Oregon Trail, pioneers loaded their wagons onto rafts or barges at The Dalles and floated down the Columbia River to the mouth of the Willamette River, then upriver to Oregon City. It was also the site of Fort Dalles, which was established in 1850 to protect immigrants after the Whitman Mission massacre. At that time, Fort Dalles was the only military post between the Pacific Ocean and Wyoming.

Today, The Dalles is home to around 15,000 residents and is a predominant Bing cherry growing region. Oregon’s oldest bookstore, Klindt’s, established in 1870, still operates in The Dalles with its original wood floors and oak and plate glass display cases. The Dalles has a reputation for being the best place to learn to windsurf and is an excellent fishing location for walleye and sturgeon. It is also the place of origin for a pedigree of cat known as LaPerm, developed in the 1980s from a unique colony of curly-coated farm cats.

MARYHILL MUSEUM: In the middle of nowhere, deep in the Columbia Gorge, is Sam Hill Country. Sam, a lawyer living in Portland, fell in love with the Columbia Gorge, saying “we have found the Garden of Eden where the sun from the east meets the rain of the west.” Known as a millionaire, friend of royalty, apostle of peace, road builder, eccentric, and dreamer, in 1908 he purchased 7,000 acres and planned to establish a utopian agricultural community here. He built a castle-like mansion for his wife using no wood—only reinforced concrete. Unfortunately, Sam could not convince his wife to move to the middle of nowhere, and the building remained incomplete until after his death in 1940.

Today, this mansion is (according to Time Magazine) ‘The loneliest art museum in the world.’ Due to Sam Hill's friendship with European royalty, it contains Romanian and American art donated by his friend Queen Maria of Romania. Exquisite and unique with gorgeous views of Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge, it also houses over 80 original sculptures and drawings by Auguste Rodin, an inspiring collection of chess sets from all over the world, stage sets and mannequins from the 1946 Théâtre de la Mode, and one of the best collections of North American native artifacts seen outside the Smithsonian. Sam also financed the construction of a replica of Stonehenge on the grounds as a war memorial dedicated to the men of the area who died during WWI.

DAY 7, Friday, Apr 14: Astoria / Fort Clatsop / Columbia River Maritime Museum
Situated near the mouth of the Columbia River, we step back in time with a sightseeing drive through Astoria, then a visit to Fort Clatsop. Fort Clatsop National Monument is a replica of the encampment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition during the winter of 1805-1806. The fort was the Corps of Discovery’s last encampment before their return trip east to St. Louis. Visit the fascinating Columbia River Maritime Museum but don’t take time to stroll through the quaint, but boring to me, Victorian streets of Astoria.

The weather so far has been pretty good – no major rain except a couple of nights like last night leaving large puddles on the decks and railings, just (almost always) cold and very windy and again this morning it is also overcast and gloomy. It is forecast to be at least 10-12 degrees colder today than on the recent days. Hopefully, the rain holds off for one more day but oops …. Remember that we are back in the lowland / coastal / rainy zone. Early Breakfast at 6:30 was very good – I went back for “thirds” of melons, grapes, and pastry. While I was eating, the boat threaded its way between two evenly spaced columns of empty freighters (ocean going ships) waiting to go further upriver and load up for their return journey “home.” There seemed to be at least a dozen in one column and almost as many in the other column. After a “light” regular breakfast (I’m not that hungry now), we head out for the last time.

The 4.2-mile long Astoria-Megler Bridge links Oregon and Washington as it crosses the Columbia River. After the boat docked near the Columbia River Maritime Museum, we board our bus for our excursion. As we start off one of our onboard guides tells us about the "Bar", the ever-changing sandbar at the mouth of the Columbia River, the largest river flowing into the Pacific Ocean in all of the Americas. The Bar has always been a natural foe of boat captains, and researchers have identified over 2,000 shipwrecks at this location thus far. Insurance company Lloyds of London has classified it as the world's most dangerous bar crossing in the world.

We arrive at our first stop, a visit to Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark built the camp to spend the winter of 1805-1806; the plans are based on the journals of Lewis and Clark. It is of course approximately what anyone would visualize for a fairly crude set of cabins somewhat protected by a log stockade. The presentation there is just basic. There are some nice trails and the Park Guide’s presentation is good but the movie in the theatre is the best – a brief (40 minute) overview of the expedition. As we get ready to leave (11AM) it is starting to rain and we even get a bit of small hail. The weather is going downhill.

In Astoria, it is the end of the river and of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Astoria was founded by John Jacob Astor and sits at the mouth of the river. It was a major sea port for fur traders like Astor in the early 19th century and later for the huge fish canneries. We have a historical (i.e. very hilly) drive through Astoria and our last stop before lunch this morning is a chance to visit the Astoria Column which is the final crowning monument in a series of 12 historical markers erected in the early 1900s between St. Paul, Minnesota and Astoria, Oregon.

The column, which sits on Coxcomb Hill overlooking the town, offers great views of the surrounding area. At the Astoria Column, the elevation of the hill is 600 feet and the Column is 125 feet high, so this 725-feet height coincidentally equals the total elevation from sea level Astoria to where we docked earlier in the week at Clarkston, Washington. The Astoria Column has a 500-foot long painting that wraps around the column and depicts 12 different images of Native Americans, Oregon history, and U.S. history – all beginning with the discovery of the Columbia River. Visitors should try and climb the 164 steps to the top if they are able (NOT ME!). The staircase is narrow and steep so I won’t climb it, although the views at the top are supposedly terrific – on the rare occasions that the weather is good.

More hills, and we go through more showers and hail, eventually arriving back to the boat, and this is the end of the planned on-site guided excursions and is the finale of our week-long voyage since we had heard or seen something each day that related to the expedition, though we will have free time later to go ashore on our own if we wish.

We get back to the boat for lunch, then we have a nice presentation by Rex Ziak, a Louis and Clark Historian. He gives us a really fantastic presentation about the “lost month” – then time between arrival near the mouth of the Columbia and the much later arrival at the site of Fort Clatsop. It was so good that I bought two of his books. We also got some interesting information on the exhibits at the Columbia River Maritime Museum and about the ongoing research being done by divers in the river.

Then at 3PM, we have time the rest of the afternoon to visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum. It is only a block from where we are docked and our admission is pre-paid – just show our name tags. They have presentation giving us lots more interesting information on the exhibits in the Museum and about the ongoing research being done by divers in the river. For me, it is definitely the very best part of our local visit since I’ve already visited the Fort before.

This is the turnaround point for the final evening’s river passage. All aboard by 6PM and then enjoy (not) a Captain’s Farewell Dinner (the selection is very poor) this evening.

ASTORIA: Fort Astoria is located near the mouth of the Columbia River, and was founded by John Jacob Astor’s fur trading company in 1811. The first permanent U.S. settlement on the Pacific coast, Astoria has more registered historic buildings than any other city in Oregon.

Though the fur company failed three years after it began operations at Fort Astoria, in 1926, the Astor family, along with Ralph Budd, president of the Great Northern Railway and architect Electus Litchfield, built a monument to commemorate the early history of the region. Set atop Coxcomb Hill, the Astoria Column reaches 125 feet into the sky, providing breathtaking views of the Columbia, the town, and the surrounding landscape.

While the fur trade and canning may have gone to the wayside, many international boats pass by Astoria today. They cross the treacherous Columbia River bar with a bar pilot and continue upriver to the ports of Portland, Vancouver, Longview, or Kalama.

DAY 8, Saturday, Apr 15: Portland, Oregon – Disembark ESCAPE
We have to have our luggage outside our cabin before we go to breakfast at 7:30. After breakfast, we will take the bus to the airport at about 8:30 arriving just after 9 or so. That gives plenty of time to make my flight according to the latest plans and is without too long of a wait.

I was able to convince United Air to change my reservation. The ORIGINAL reservation had an 11:30AM departure time, but they did a revision to a 10:40AM departure which was too early for Un-Cruze to get me to the airport but I was able to get United Air to change back to approximately what the original reservation was – a later departure and non-stop. Now I can have breakfast and also take the included transfer to the airport. Although we get lunch on the flight, I’ll got some early lunch at the airport. Since the flight home is non-stop, there shouldn’t be as many problems as on the flight north.

United UA 1953Portland – Houston12:27 - 6:334:06

Unlike the trip north, this one went well. We lose 2 hours (time zones) on the way home. The plane got in early and I had my luggage and was on the shuttle before the plane’s scheduled arrival. Home at 7:10, not 8:30.

Presentations mostly very good, by the staff during the week:
Saturday: The activites during the upcoming week
Sunday: Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery
Monday: Geology of the Pacific Northwest
Monday: Culture and History of the Nez Perce Indians
Tuesday: Wines of the Pacific Northwest
Wednesday: The River That Won the War (WWII)
Friday: The Bar at the mouth of the Columbia River

Selected pictures
These pictures are courtesy of Un-Cruise
and NOT for sale or commercial purposes
Click to enlarge

S.S. Legacy

The S.S. Legacy, formerly Cruise West’s “the Spirit of 98”, has been newly reinvented into a replica turn-of-the-century coastal steamer with carved wooden cabinetry and a Grand Salon (lounge). Come aboard the 88-guest S.S. Legacy and take a step back in time. Our replica coastal steamer with the benefits of modern comforts. Four decks provide ample outside viewing opportunities and relaxing public spaces for taking a stroll at sunset. There is NO Wi-Fi internet on the boat.

The ship specifications:
* 88 guests, 44 cabins
* 34-35 crew members, 2.5:1 Guest-to-crew ratio
* 192 feet in length, 40 feet wide
* Cruising speed of 11 knots
* Renovated in 2013

Every meal is handcrafted to ensure innovative, nutritious, and delectable dining experiences that highlight flavors of the region. Menus look quite a bit fancy.

* Early-riser breakfast Nibbles of fresh fruit (actually very nice selection and amount) and baked-on-board pastries at 6:30 but NOT a breakfast
* Full breakfasts with hot and cold options and specialty items what seems like MUCH later at 7:30
* Lunches range from salads, sandwiches, and homemade soups to (mostly) regionally-influenced dishes (usually a fairly decent choice) at 12:30
* Dinners offers a very limited choice of entrées including fresh, local seafood, pasta, and meats at 6:30

Unless there’s a specially arranged barbecue or lunch on shore, most dinners are served over several courses. The dining experience is casual, and seating is open.

I received a surprise upgrade (they must not be "sold out") to “COMMANDER” Prison Cells (127 – 147 square feet) which have twin beds, view window, and private bath with shower. There is also a flat-screen TV, which shows daily schedules and comes with a DVD library BUT NO WI-FI/INTERNET. The tall wardrobe has hangers and two drawers, and on the top shelf, you'll find fleece blankets and binoculars for sightseeing. All beds offer built-in drawers for added storage, plus some space underneath the beds, where life jackets are stored. Some Commander cabins have desks and some don't. One is promised but I'm not holding my breath. They are much better than on the Baranof Nightmare.

The nightmare cabin I was originally assigned to (320) is rated as a single, but (it is not assigned so I had a chance to look in) has a large, full-size, bed, no desk, one chair, one small bed-side table, is dark, and almost no “open” floor space; just a very narrow strip around the “monster” bed. Awful! No! Not! Never!!!

The “Commander” Prison Cells are in dark blue on the deck plan. My cell number is #303, starboard upper deck, bow. The only potential problem is that it is so close to the bow that there might well be a large herd of cattle right outside trying to see the scenery. Inconvenient, noisy, and a nuisance.