At the Confluence of the Columbia and Snake Rivers in Washington
We were awake about 6:15 am, and the sky was just starting to lighten in the east. What a change in the landscape from the day before. The land was flatter, and we were near the Tri-Cities area of Washington, at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. I always thought the Snake River was named because it winds its way through Idaho and Washington, but it was actually named for the Snake Indians.
We would be sailing all day on the Snake River, so it was a good chance to rest and relax. While sailing, exploration leader Teresa gave a presentation on how the locks work.
Morning on the Snake River in Washington
We cruised all day, and the land seemed to become more desolate. The railroad tracks still ran along the river, but we didn't see the numerous trains of the day before. It was a relaxing day on the river, and the Spirit of Discovery passengers used the time to get to know each other better, read a book, sit in the sun, or nap.
We had a delicious barbecue onboard for lunch, featuring salmon, hotdogs, and ribs, along with corn on the cob, baked beans, potato slaw and cole slaw. The delicious, finger-licking good meal was topped off with a warm berry cobbler or blond brownie.
Time passed by slowly as the ship made her way upstream. Each sharp bend in the river delivered a new geological lesson, since the rock formations were so diverse. The ship also passed through more locks.
Dinner was another treat with red snapper or pork loin on the menu. After the big lunch and dinner, the hot chocolate lava cake was almost TOO much.
After dinner, Roger delivered part 2 of his story of George Drouiliard. This time he dressed in buckskin, topped with a coonskin cap.
Lewis & Clark and the Nez Perce Nation
Wednesday morning the small ship was in Clarkston, Washington. This day was the one I had most looked forward to--a jet boat ride 90 miles up the Snake River through famous Hells Canyon.
Before boarding the two jet boats, we were treated to an educational presentation on the Nez Perce Nation by Angel Sobatta. She discussed her ancestors and used old photos of her extended family to make the story come to life. It was fascinating to learn about her family history, cultural traditions, and how the Nez Perce Indians first greeted the white men to their area, but then eventually fought with them, due to cultural misunderstandings.
Mom and I made a wise choice of seats--the right (starboard) side of the boat, which was in the shade for both the morning and afternoon.
The two jet boats stopped for a short break about 10:30 am at Cache Creek Ranch, where they served banana bread and coffee. Cache Creek was a wonderful small oasis on the river, with lush grass and fruit trees on a point overlooking the river.
We arrived at Kirby Lodge about 12:45 and stayed until about 2 pm, enjoying a delicious fried chicken buffet lunch. A few brave souls who wore their swimsuits went swimming in the 68 degree river. Too cold for me!
Soon it was time to leave quiet Kirby Lodge and we started back downstream, retracing our route back to the ship. The driver warned those sitting in the back of the boat that they would get wet, and they (and we) did.
The Cruise West ship left Clarkston soon after we boarded, and we began the return trip to Portland.
Snake River Hair and "Crab Night" on the Spirit of Discovery
After being wind blown for hours, we returned to the ship with "Snake River hair". We were ravenous from being out of doors all day, and the chef treated us to some of the best Dungeness crab legs I've ever had. The other selection was steak, but most of us chowed down on the legs, cracking and picking the legs and making a huge mess. They were so good that many of us got a second batch of legs. Dessert was a Bailey's marble cheesecake that received rave reviews.
After dinner, most of us went to bed early, but several stayed up to watch a documentary movie on the "Sagebrush Sailors", which was about the early shipping and river traffic on the Columbia and Snake Rivers before the dams and locks were built.
Our first stop was at one of the places the Lewis and Clark expedition camped along the Touche River. Today this river has shrunk to creek-sized, but in the early 1800's, it was navigable. We only stopped long enough for Roger, our onboard Lewis and Clark expert, to explain the site.
Next door to the museum complex is an old cemetery, with many graves from the 1st Cavalry soldiers who were stationed at Fort Walla Walla. The setting for the cemetery is lovely, with huge trees and well-tended grass. After all the browns and reds of the rocks along the river for the past few days, the shady green cemetery was tranquil and cool.