Columbia and Snake Rivers Cruise, 2017

The second week of September 2017 (September 8-16), I took the Columbia and Snake Rivers Cruise, an American Cruise Lines cruise escorted by Deb Bromley of Isings Travel. There were 24 of us in the Isings group, including two others from Galloway Ridge, and about 140 passengers on the ship. This was a particularly scenic trip and I took a lot of pictures. The bus drivers gave us interesting information as we went along. I learned about the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Native Americans, agriculture, climate, geology, and more.

We gathered Friday, September 8, at a hotel in Spokane, Washington. The next morning, we took a 2-hour narrated bus trip to our ship, American Pride, in Clarkston, WA. Our driver told us about the Palouse Tribe, how Native Americans were devastated by measles and smallpox, and the cavalry. We were in an area known as high desert – high altitude and very little rain. The major crop is wheat.

We arrived at our ship and had lunch. We were supposed to depart at 1:30 but one of the ship's two engines needed repair, which moved departure time to 7pm. Meanwhile we were treated to a free 3-hour Hell's Canyon Jet Boat Ride! Hells Canyon, North America's deepest river gorge, which was carved by the Snake River, has Washington on one side and Idaho on the other. It was a lovely day and fantastic boat trip.

After dinner, we heard about the excursions being offered. We needed to figure out which ones we wanted to do.

Late in the evening, the ship stopped. I stepped out on my balcony to see a wall in front of me. We were in a lock. I'm glad someone at our dinner table had told us we were going to go through locks or I wouldn't have known what was going on. I think we went through a total of 8 locks on the trip.

Sunday morning we were cruising. Ian Sampson gave a talk on the geology of the area. I explored the ship and watched as we went through another lock. Our afternoon trip to Pendleton was delayed by a barge and waiting in traffic for the lock. We docked in Richland, WA. The mill was closed because it was Sunday, so we didn't get to go in – we just went to the mill outlet shop. We were late getting back to the ship and missed Happy Hour, but the crew had set up a special bar for us next to the ramp as we get back on board. About 9pm (in the dark) we entered the Columbia River.

The photo above shows the dam's fish ladder

Monday morning, we were cruising. Ian Sampson described the beginning of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Ian is quite a good story teller.

I particularly like this photo. You can see the columnar structure of the basalt,
one of the many trains (there are about 35 a day on each side of the river),
and Native Americans fishing (they have fishing rights in particular areas).

Monday afternoon we docked at The Dalles, OR. I did the Maryhill winery tour – quite different from what I expected. The winery was OK but nothing special, but the museum, which I thought would be small with local artifacts, is a large art museum full of sculptures by Rodin, European and American paintings, an amazing collection of baskets of Native Americans, objects from the palaces of the Queen of Romania, and more – much more than we could see in the short time we were there. The building was started as a home for Samuel Hill and his wife Mary, but the farming community Hill hoped to build failed, his wife left him, and construction stopped. Hill had impressive friends who convinced him to complete the building as an art museum and provided him with much of the art for it. So there's now an impressive art museum out in the middle of nowhere.

There is also a 4,000 seat amphitheater. Their website says: "Combine the natural acoustics of The Gorge with the stunning backdrop, and we immediately saw the potential for a world-class concert venue. After all, what's better than listening to your favorite artists with a great glass of wine and the sun setting behind the stage?"

The hand of God

The Maryhill area is quite interesting. Maryhill Fruit Company raises cherries, peaches, pears, apples, and more. Their website says that low showers during spring and hot, dry summers are perfect for their growing season. One of our bus drivers said that grapes do well with just the moisture from morning dew in that climate.

View from Maryhill Winery looking across the Columbia River.

Deb Bromley took this photo.

This photo that I found with Google search gives a great overview of the museum, amphitheater, orchard, and dry surrounding area.

Tuesday early in the morning, we moved to Hood River, OR (instead of the scheduled stop, Stevenson, WA), and visited the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. In the afternoon, we went to the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum and saw Mount Adams. We had sturgeon for dinner. I'd never had it before. It had an odd taste that I didn't like. Several people at my table ordered it but I don't think anyone ate it. This evening's entertainment was particularly good – Kevin Neil, guitar/singer/comedian, had everyone singing along to his "Songs of Cowboys."

Wednesday morning we left Hood River headed for Astoria, OR, and Ian Sampson concluded his story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. We went through our last lock at Bonneville.

Our visit to Multnomah Falls was cancelled. There were forest fires in the area and the roads and trails were closed. However, we could see the falls from the river and our pilot stopped for photos. We also got views of Mount Hood.

It's surprising how quickly we came back into civilization – boats, subdivisions, hotels on the banks. It was another fine cruising day. I had my first steelhead trout for dinner and it was delicious! And huckleberry ice cream (my first huckleberries).

Thursday we went to the Astoria Column. Murals on the column celebrate moments of Northwestern history. Several people climbed the 164-step spiral staircase to an observation deck at the top. I wasn't one of them. There was a good view from the hill, particularly of Megler Bridge, which is more than 4 miles long. Then we went to Fort Clatsop, the winter encampment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The fort was reconstructed from sketches in the journals of William Clark. After lunch we went to Cape Disappointment. Kevin Neil entertained us after dinner with "Songs of the Sailor," but the highlight of the evening was a classical guitar piece.

The statue is of Sacagawea, who helped Lewis and Clark, and her baby.

Friday we arrived in Portland and went to Mount St. Helens. In the afternoon, I went on the Portland City Tour with a stop at the Portland Rose Gardens.

The rose garden was a nice way to end a very nice trip.

At dinner the last night, there was an announcement that because there were so many delays and rearrangements of the schedule, there would be no additional charges for anything (many of the excursions usually have fees). Everything was complimentary. I was very impressed with the passengers – very nice, friendly people, and I didn't hear any complaints about our changing schedule and delays. It was a beautiful trip!