As dawn broke, we approached the Bonneville dam and lock, the oldest of the area, off the Columbia River. Aligning ourselves with the 672’x85’ concrete lock, guests from all over the United States and abroad, emerged excited and armed with fresh coffee and early winter gear to claim witness the massive hoisting of National Geographic Quest over 60 feet up and away from the tidewaters of the Pacific Ocean. Guests gazed in awe as we safely traversed the first of eight historic dam and locks systems on the Columbia River.
We then continued into the Columbia River Gorge toward Hood River, where winds in excess of 40 knots battered the ship’s hull and white caps chopped the river into what seemed like a thousand pieces. Rather than face the heavy Columbia Gorge winds, guests and staff opted for a tutorial on smart phone photography and stories of the passions of Thomas Jefferson and his relation to Lewis and Clark’s epic journey to the Pacific Northwest.
At midday guests cruised by Zodiacs to Hood River’s shore, transiting to the stunning Mt. View Orchards for lunch. We were treated by expansive views of the striking wonder of 11,250-foot Mount Hood and a farm-to-table four-course lunch including homemade apple cider, pacific salmon, and apple crisp, while dining together as family in long tables under an outdoor dining area.
After lunch, some guests trekked the original Columbia River Highway and the 4.6-mile-long Mosier Tunnels engineered by John A. Elliot, while aviation and car enthusiasts visited the fascinating Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum, or WAAAM, in Hood River. Abandoned in 1954, Mosier tunnels were reverted back to private owners, and with the help of government support, the area was reconnected to the old highway and zoned into the National Scenic Area Act. Guests strolled up the gentle 1.3-mile grade, lined with spectacular basalt cliffs, balsamroot, and other wildflowers on one side; the deep Columbia Gorge overlooking Eighteen Mile Island and the Washington city of White Salmon on the other. Guest marveled at how the 350-foot-long tunnels had been bored directly out of basalt while soaking up afternoon sun and fresh autumn air from the Columbia Basin.
The group re-boarded National Geographic Quest in early evening by Zodiacs, encompassing a remarkable day of storytelling, feasting, history, trekking, and vistas. The day was topped before dinner by a group singalong of “Roll On” by Woody Guthrie in the ship’s lounge.