Late yesterday we slid out of Portland, Oregon, on a beautiful autumn evening. We gently eased out into the main stem of the Columbia, the “Great River of the West.” We began our weeklong exploration of the region by heading downstream towards the tangled knot of currents and sandbars where the mighty stream meets the powerful Pacific Ocean.

By breakfast we were tied up at the dock in Astoria and roused by the bustle of a diverse city, the oldest American settlement in the region, with a history of trading and shipping based on the rich surrounding natural resources.  Our morning encompassed visits to the Columbia River Maritime Museum, Fort Stevens State Park, and the wreck of the Peter Iredale, transiting in short order from the working environs of the city to the tumbling surf of the Pacific Ocean shore.

The afternoon brought us to Fort Clatsop National Park, the site where the Corps of Discovery spent a cold, wet winter before beginning their long return trip back to Saint Louis, Missouri. We’ll trace the first part of this route throughout the upcoming week, albeit in a very different landscape and with considerably greater comfort.