The day dawned pink and peach, blue and grey. Like most days aboard National Geographic Sea Lion , things continued to get better! We had a very interesting presentation in the morning hours by Kirt Kempter about plate tectonics and the Columbia River Flood basalts that formed so much of what we see and talk about. I am a layer counter! I like to know how many basalt events I can see at one time. Later in the day we listened to a presentation by Lincoln Pratson about global warming and some unique ways that are being developed to sequester carbon from both the atmosphere and from the ocean water using natural materials and processes like olivine! Some fascinating ideas and processes I had never heard of. We spent the afternoon hiking about Crow Butte which is now an island in the Columbia River although it used to be a peninsula. The terrain is shrub steppe which is a term for what I used to call sagebrush desert. I really like the term shrub steppe, I very much like the term. I find it much more descriptive than desert. When I think of desert I think of sand dunes. A very good day for all!
Today was spent exploring the region of the Columbia River Gorge, beginning with shuttles to Oregon’s Cascade Locks. Once everyone was ashore, we boarded buses to take us to our desired locations. Some went hiking at Wahchella Falls, others directly to the Bonneville Fish Hatchery, and then to Multnomah Falls. A delicious lunch awaited us at the Crag Rat Hut, then it was off on a tour of the Fruit Loop Trail, traveling through a variety of orchards, with a stop at The Draper Girls Farm. Due to an incoming storm, we headed back to the ship a little early, and shuttled back to the ship, which had to reposition due to strong winds.
Today we woke up aboard the National Geographic Venture to forecasts of stormy weather and the chance of rain. That did not stop our brave explorers from bundling up and boarding Zodiacs to head over to shore. We met our Zodiacs on dock with palpable excitement while staff members Sue and Shayne danced on the dock. Boarding coaches, we traveled up to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park and while driving we had a taste of the scenic views to come. Once we made it to the top, gasps were audible as everyone could see the sweeping 360-degree views of the Olympic Mountain Range. We met our guides and were able to explore the peaks of this incredible area for over two hours. The range that we could see upon arrival was almost invisible upon our return due to the massive shifts in cloud coverage that gives this area its name. Winds whirled around us with such force that you could try to lean into the wind and be held afloat. The timing could not have been better as we could see rain on the horizon. On warm coaches, we set off down the mountain, driving through fall foliage to Lake Crescent. When we arrived, our amazing bar team, Ayla and Hunter, had set up lunch on the shores of the lake. Fall colors dotted the evergreen forest and only accentuated the beauty of this lake created by ancient ice sheets melting. With energy and renewed spirits of adventure, we entered an old-growth forest in Olympic National Park. Words cannot describe the feeling of standing in this place. The magic of the forest was clear from the moment you stepped into the tree line. Massive hemlock and cedars towered over open mouths as we moved along in sheer awe of the wisdom of this forest. Mushrooms abounded and ferns coated the floor. We hiked through hemlocks, cedars, firs, and maple that towered overhead. The river ran beside us and golden leaves could be seen floating down to be whisked away to areas unknown. The childlike wonder was audible as people questioned if fairies and gnomes were found in this area. This was only amplified by reaching Merymere falls. This cascading waterfall ties together all that we’ve seen and is a symbol of the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Once back aboard the ship, we were greeted with a beautiful spread of appetizers and cocktails before our nightly recap began. Tonight we learned about the amazing relationship we have with sustainable farms in the area and our head chef spoke to us about how every ingredient for dinner was collected by our local farmers. Our speaker Jim Thomas then graced us with a beautiful folktale of how Raven returned light to the earth. With recap concluded we headed to the dining room to dine on a delicious farm-to-table feast before returning to the lounge to hear our Certified Photo Instructor/Naturalist Shayne Sanders give presentation about the birds of the Salish Sea. That concluded our day of hearts filled with the exhilaration of discovery until we greet the day tomorrow for our final day of the voyage.
Today we woke to a quintessential Pacific Northwest day. As the light rain came down, we loaded our Zodiacs to head out and explore English Camp on the San Juan Islands. The fall foliage colors were exploding as we landed and headed ashore. We were blessed to have our expert Naturalist Sharon Grainger explain the significance of the beautiful ornate totem poles on the shoreline. Carved by the Salish Coast people, these poles honor the tradition of reef netting in the area. Contrasted by the modern English Camp settlement structures, these poles represent and honor those that called this place home for over 10,000 years before ships sailed here. Turning to the camp we were greeted with 200-year-old big leaf maple trees in a brilliant display of a variety of fall colors. We hiked though these old growth forests, and with leaves crushing underfoot, we explored countless mushroom and lichen. Some adventurous souls climbed to the mountaintop and were met with a sweeping view of the island chain we have been sailing through. Back on ship our remarkable galley team had a steaming lunch prepared to welcome back those
dampened by the rain. After lunch, Jim Thomas presented in the lounge and displayed a variety of beautiful Native American pieces he has been gifted over the years. He shared stories and wisdom that brought tears to the eyes of those cuddled up in the lounge as we sailed to our next destination. With the anchor set, we loaded up our Zodiacs and set a course for American Camp. The sun broke through and smiles were plentiful as the warmth enveloped us. Landing at Third Lagoon we had a breathtaking view of the National Geographic Venture with harlequin ducks, hooded merganser, and bald eagles. Aerobic, forest, and bird hikes allowed us to explore our south end of the San Juan Islands. From red fox to Cooper's hawks, there was no shortage of species to identify. Binoculars were raised and cameras clicked as we continued through this incredible temperate rainforest. As we reached beachheads, we followed our guiding principles and collected trash washed ashore to leave our world better than we found it, while constantly spotting new birds. Later. we enjoyed an amazing Zodiac ride to Whale Rock, where we saw both harbor Seals and Steller sea lions. The sea lions were so curious that the females displayed for us in the water as the males fought for dominance on the rock haul out. We cheered as they explored each of our Zodiacs and gave us ample time to photograph. Once back onboard, we enjoyed an amazing array of appetizers as we warmed up with a cocktail and settled in for an amazing recap given by our undersea team to show us the beauty that exists below the surface we sail on. After a belly full of delicious food we came back to the lounge and learned about the remarkable history of trade beads by Sharon Grainger. Sharing the stories of the people that have honored these lands for centuries is nothing short of magic. With that we drifted off to sleep to dream of those adventures yet to come.
Travelling up the Columbia River is a story of changes. Over broad swaths of time, the building of the continent, the laying down of the basalt rocks, the uplift of mountains, and the scouring of the landscape by sweeping floods, all set the stage for the landscape we see. The vegetation and the associated fauna have dramatically changed from the wet and mild coastal climate to a rain shadowed dry oak forest and grasslands. The human imprint of different people, their movements, their industry and trade, their imagination, are strong here. We are in Hood River with a full day of excursions before returning to the upriver journey of National Geographic Sea Lion .