I've driven along the great Columbia River and I've looked out on the gorge from the observation car of an Antrak train. I've flown over the river in a plane and by helicopter. All of these modes give a great view of the river but until a few weeks ago I'd never actually been on the river.
That changed when I boarded Un-Cruise Adventures S.S.Legacy in Portland for a 7-day cruise up the Columbia and Snake Rivers.
The small-ship Heritage excursion was much more than a week on the water. It was an immersion into the history and culture of the Northwest.
I've traveled with Un-Cruise Adventures before, on a similar small-ship excursion in Alaska. I wasn't sure what to expect on the river cruise but I quickly realized I was going to have the same kind of immersive, authentic, experience.
Unless you've experienced the dramatic changes in the landscape as you move from the Pacific Northwest to the interior of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, it's hard to comprehend.
As we passed through the series of locks and dams that have tamed the wild, fierce, river I heard people talking about the view.
With a maximum of 92 passengers, the S.S.Legacy is intimate and informal. The food is outstanding and each day as the chef announced the meals for the day, it just seemed to get better and better. (This is another Un-Cruise hallmark.)
Wine and spirits are included in the cost of the cruise and each evening's cocktail hour was a great way to get to know the other passengers.
Captain Dano Quinn's open bridge policy added another dimension to the trip. My husband loften walked up there after dinner to sit and talk with the crew as they navigated.
We took advantage of the ship's library and I noticed quite a few others refreshing their Lewis and Clark history while we followed in the footsteps of the Corps of Discovery.
Each day brought a new encounter.
From the Native Americans who lived there for centuries before the first fur traders ventured into the area. From Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery, to the men women and children who traveled the Oregon Trail, we explored museums and historic sites. Costumed interpreters on board brought to life the lives of historical figures and everyday people whose life stories were entwined in the development of modern life in the region.
By the time we returned, I knew much more than I'd known when we departed and I had a deeper, richer, understanding of my own back yard.