This morning, we woke up in an entirely different environment: the desert! In the rain-shadow of the Cascade Mountain Range. Instead of moisture from the Pacific dropping as rain and snow, in some places averaging as much as 67 inches per year. Here, west of the mountains, the air is dry and the rainfall averages only 12 inches.
We anchored near Crow Butte State Park in Washington, disembarked in Zodiacs and explored the trails through the sagebrush steppe ecosystem. Led by the expedition team, some groups enjoyed a Lewis and Clark history stroll, some a walk with an emphasis on birds, others explored the rich geology. Some embarked on a faster aerobic walk. It was a beautiful morning.
After a delicious lunch, we had an afternoon of cruising farther inland up the Columbia, through the McNary Lock while enjoying river views. We also had the opportunity to listen to a fascinating geology lecture learning all about the basaltic lava flows we were moving through. Later, there was a tasting of local beers followed by a photography lecture by National Geographic photographer Phil Schermeister.
The day concluded with a delectable dinner and talk on birds of the Columbia River as we sailed onto the Snake River where we will be continuing the next two days of our journey.