An overcast day awaited us in Astoria — a common occurrence for the coastal town. For myself and about half of the expedition’s participants, the day began with a trip to visit a colony of California sea lions. The pinnipeds barked, grunted, and moaned their way through the morning, their scents and sounds alerting us to their presence. Following our visit with the animals we walked down the paved path of the city’s waterfront to the Columbia River Maritime Museum. A world-class institution, the museum houses loads of fantastic information on the river’s history as a center for shipping and commerce. Perhaps the most shocking exhibit is the interactive display on shipwrecks at the bar of the river. One can’t help but be moved when thinking about the lives the sea has claimed, and the ripple effects of such losses on this small community. An antidote to the somber chord struck by this installation was the museum’s featured film on sea lions, which highlights conservation successes in Australia and the Pacific Coast of the U.S. After the museum, some guests visited the famous Astoria Column — a nearly century-old installation highlighting the town’s history — while others strolled through town. In either case, fun was had!

Following lunch, we boarded coaches and set out across the river to Washington State. Our long ride concluded at Cape Disappointment State Park — a place whose name does not reflect its status in our hearts. It is home to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, a phenomenal and interactive museum that illustrates the struggles and triumphs of the Corps. The museum also houses its own collection of maritime specialties; it was an enjoyable and educational follow-up to the morning. After our visit to the center, we marched through the temperate rainforest and down to the beach. The cape shrouded in fog was an idyllic sight, as were the waves gently rolling toward the black sands on shore. It was a day that synthesized the region’s remarkable human and natural history and a fantastic way to start our expedition.