We woke this morning to lovely clear skies, a moderate breeze, and a perfect temperature for exploring some of the highlights of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. We are still anchored in the vicinity of Beacon Rock, the hard basaltic core of an ancient volcano, which stands quiet watch over this section of the gorge. Lewis and Clark camped here on their westward trek, observed that the river level rose and fell on the tidal cycle, and guessed that they must be approaching their final goal, even though it was still more than 140 miles to the Pacific Ocean. After disembarking National Geographic Sea Lion via expedition landing, our first stop was Multnomah Falls – possibly the most scenic, and also most photographed, waterfall in the Pacific Northwest. Accessible from the nearby highway, it was busy, but not overcrowded. We were able to visit the small but fascinating visitor center (and gift shop), and everyone picked a hike to suit their own degree of adventure; some satisfied with the views near the base of the falls, others strolling to the first tier observation bridge, and an energetic group hiking over two miles and a thousand feet in elevation to a top level lookout above the upper falls.