Today was an exciting and beautiful completion of our trip down the Columbia River from Clarkston, Idaho to Astoria, Oregon aboard National Geographic Quest. In small groups, we visited both the Maritime Museum in downtown Astoria as well as Cape Disappointment State Park and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. For many, this was a long-awaited day and we were delighted to have it include slight mist, then bright sun rays to illuminate the gorgeous colors and textures that define the Pacific Northwest.
Our time at the Cape Disappointment State Park was spent before incredible views and dramatic scenery at the entrance to the Pacific Ocean, where the ocean meets the Columbia River. We were also delighted to experience the ancient coastal forest along the perimeter. When Lewis and Clark came upon Cape Disappointment in 1805, they described these lush forests in their journals. On our walk to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, we were able to see perhaps a bit of what they had encountered as we felt diminished by the dominant Sitka spruce and observed the Western hemlock, rose bushes and variety of pine trees.
Our trip was completed with a trip to downtown Astoria, Oregon. Our first stop was at the Maritime Museum where we were able to not only learn about the dynamic and extreme forces at work along the Columbia River Bar, but also the tragic and incredible stories of the people and ships that have passed through this historic place. Here, along the Columbia River Bar, waves can exceed 40 feet in height during the most severe winter storms. After experiencing the museum, we were excited to visit the fourth and final lightship Columbia stationed on the River, which served as a floating lighthouse to aid ships in their approach in area known as the Graveyard of the Pacific in the Columbia River where lightships had been guiding from 1892 until 1979. The final lightship to be decommissioned on the U.S. West Coast was this very lightship, replaced by an automated navigational buoy soon after.
Our day started with heavy rain and grey skies, but every hour that passed included more sun rays and even more smiles. Though we have so many memories from this exciting adventure, the expedition passed too quickly, and it will be missed.