The morning was chilly aboard National Geographic Sea Bird, so much so that our morning stretchers were forced to begin the day with exercise in the forward lounge. A gorgeous layer of steam formed as the sun crept over the hillsides of the channeled scablands, disrupted only by the wingbeats of mallards and buffleheads. The frost that had accumulated along the hills glistened in the golden light of the sunrise. Passengers enjoyed their first breakfast with the natural beauty of the area on full display. Following our meal, we bundled up and prepared for the first true adventure of our itinerary: jet boating down the Snake River. Thankfully, the boats are covered and heated!
The jet boat tour is a true voyage highlight. There is nary an experience that can top the exhilarating rush of speeding down the river at 35 miles per hour and seeing the autumn foliage fly by in blazes of gold and red. There is much to see along the river: common mergansers, great blue herons, and bald eagles accent the hillsides. To the keen observer, the opportunity to spot bighorn sheep along the bluffs is perhaps the day’s greatest highlight. Our first stop was Cache Creek, a historic ranch now managed by the US Forest Service. There, wild turkeys roamed the grounds, foraging on apples and walnuts that had fallen to the earth. Our final stop was for lunch on the grounds of a Nature Conservancy, where delicious barbecue and games of cornhole awaited us.
Following our morning adventure, we had the privilege of listening to two exhilarating guest speakers. The first was JR Spencer, a storyteller and representative of the Nez Perce Indian Nation. Spencer is an utterly captivating speaker. Clad in colorful, traditional regalia and equipped with native instrumentation, his most powerful asset is his voice. It is a remarkable program. Our second speaker was Coco Umiker, a winemaker who came aboard to share the stories and intricacies of her craft. Shortly after her departure, we pulled away from the dock for the first time on our trip. Now bound for the Palouse River, the ship is abuzz with good vibrations and smiles.