Reminders of the journey led by Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark are omnipresent on the Columbia River. As we cruise the river in luxury and style two centuries later, I struggle to comprehend what the captains and their crew might think of the river today. What would they say as National Geographic Sea Bird makes easy work of the river’s force or of the rapids that nearly claimed their lives? Would they welcome such changes, or would they long for the days when observation was a meticulous task that required genuine artistry? Would a highway of motorized vehicles sending millions to the Oregonian coast be something they could have foreseen? How would their journals and correspondence have differed if they could have conversed in real time with President Jefferson?
The fact is that no matter how much we may imagine the past, we are far from Lewis and Clark. We are adventurers – this we can be certain of – but we do so with modern comforts. Today, our adventurous spirit was put to the test. The day was full of activity. As soon as the sun’s first beams illuminated the mountains, we started counting waterfowl. By noon, we had traversed a lock, counted 30 bird species, and learned a great deal about iPhone photography. Our afternoon put us face-to-face with a ten-foot sturgeon, atop 848-foot Beacon Rock, and braving torrential rain and winds to photograph hummingbirds. We may not be Lewis and Clark, but those captains did not have imported wine served to them in heated cabins. This is a trade-off we will happily accept.