On our first morning for our week of adventure we woke up in Astoria, Oregon within sight of the mouth of the great “River of the West” or Columbia River. Overnight rain had left a cool and
clean feel to the fall air.
One of our stops was the impressive Columbia River Maritime Museum, a fitting tribute to the river known as the roughest river bar in the world. Guests were greeted by the full-scale diorama of a dramatic rescue by the United States Coast Guard. Other displays showed the progression of mapping by the early explorers, real-time global weather patterns, and the job of the bar and river pilots who bring the giant cargo ships safely into their berth at one of the many export facilities in the Portland and Kalama areas.
Shuttles took us the short distance to the Astoria Column, which provided a spectacular view, even from the bottom without climbing the 164 stairs to the top. Afternoon clearing enhanced their vistas. Passengers also had an excursion to Cape Disappointment and the Lewis and Clark Interpretative Center, perched atop the bluff adjacent to the still operational Cape Disappointment lighthouse. We noted the area of Anchor Island, where in November 1805 both Captains Lewis and Clark carved the names, the date, and ‘by land’ in local trees. We also gazed in wonderment at Pacific Ocean breakers crashing upon the River Bar, the area shaped by the long rock jetties installed more than a century ago.
Inside the Interpretative Center, a profusely illustrated timeline that snaked down a ramp inside the building provided an overview of the entire Lewis and Clark Expedition from conception to the return to St Louis. Our return included an optional walk down the bluff to Waikiki Beach, so named for a Hawaiian crewmember lost at the mouth of the river two centuries ago. After walking with bare feet in the firm sand to observe the lighthouse from the beach, we discussed the Confluence Project installation conceived by renowned designer Maya Lin. After seeing the life size nine-foot sculpture in downtown Ilwaco of a condor feeding on a whale, we then returned National Geographic Quest, casting off shortly after our arrival to head upriver to our next day of fabulous scenery, impressive views, and notable destinations.