This morning aboard National Geographic Sea Bird, we awoke to clear skies and a spectacular view of Mount Hood as we transited the Dalles Lock. We had an action-packed morning and afternoon. After a quick shuttle to the dock, we boarded our trusty motor coaches and traveled west along the historic scenic highway. We learned about the human and natural history of the area on our way up to Rowena Crest, which provided a new perspective of the Columbia River Gorge. From our viewpoint, we enjoyed a great view of the horseshoe bend in the scenic highway. There is still evidence of a recent snowstorm on the ridgelines, but as we looked closer, we noticed that many wildflowers are now in bloom. We spotted arrowleaf balsamroot as well as lupines.
We continued our exploration of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail on foot as we took off for a five-mile hike. This section of the trail is closed to motor traffic, which made for pleasant walking. Along the way, we transited through the Moiser Twin tunnels, which are supported by old wood timbers. Built in 1921, the road builders dynamited through the basalt bedrock to make the tunnels, which are almost 400 feet long. In 1954, a new highway was built near the water level of the river, and cars no longer used the highway. In the 1980s, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act established a roadmap to restore the old highway as a hiking and biking route, which remains its primary use today.
In the afternoon, we headed into the cloudy landscape to explore the Hood River Valley. Our first stop was Draper Girls’ Country Farm, where we sampled some of the farm’s apples and pears. We enjoyed visiting the farm’s adorable pet pygmy goat, named “Flash.” On our way back north to Hood River, we passed blossoming blueberry and cherry orchards. The foot of Mount Adams was visible as the clouds lifted slightly. We made an impromptu stop at Apple Valley farm stand, where we enjoyed huckleberry milkshakes made with vanilla ice cream. It was a real treat, especially given that huckleberries are not often cultivated, rather picked wild.
Our afternoon continued with more learning at the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum and a visit to Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum. As we headed back to the ship, the golden light of the falling sun offered a great ending to our very busy day. After dinner, we saw a preview of the video documentary that video chronicler David Pickar is working on for us. Overall, we had a fantastic day exploring and learning as we make our way west down the Columbia River.