Our first day aboard National Geographic Sea Bird was indeed a fun and memorable one. At 0700, Expedition Leader Anna Kayes made an announcement to start the morning’s affairs as Wellness Specialist Allison Dickey began her stretch class atop the sundeck. By 0730, the hardworking team in the galley and dining room, headed by Executive Chef Eddie McField and Chief Steward Brooke Walk, had finished their preparations for breakfast. Hotel Manager Louie Rios welcomed guests for their first meal of the day. Shortly after our meal, shipboard Physician Bob Kogel and I (Naturalist Leigh Work) walked guests to our jet boats, which would guide us up into Hells Canyon for a morning tour. Following a goodbye from Captain Chris Rhodes, we were off.

Our tour was unbelievable. As the warm autumn sunlight met the cool morning breeze, everyone aboard found themselves entirely comfortable. We cruised by cottonwoods donning their seasonal yellows, mallards and mergansers assuming migrational posts, and sockeye fishermen casting their flies upstream…all signs of the season. Our first stop, Cache Creek, was home to roughly a dozen turkeys dining on the hillside’s seasonal forage: crabapples, pears, and walnuts. Cruising farther, we witnessed larger fauna, namely bald eagles, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, and white sturgeons. Following lunch ashore, we took the chance to pick apples, and many enjoyed a siesta on the ride back to Clarkston.

Back at the dock, we were greeted by Second Mate David Westling and settled in for two presentations. The first was by Coco Umiker, PhD., a local winemaker. Umiker’s wines have a unique flavor profile that makes her a standout in the Lewis and Clark American Viticultural Area. Following Coco was JR Spencer, a Nez Perce storyteller who brings the region to life with his creative narratives and humor. It is incredibly special to have Spencer aboard. As the two tell stories about their experiences in the region we travel, it serves to deepen our experience.

This evening, we sail for the first dams and locks along our river cruise. Our bridge officers – Rhodes, Westling, Chief Mate Mel Fitzgerald, and Third Mate Candice Lindstrand – as well as Engineers Cliff Muse and Damian Byers will ensure that we navigate safely while our natural history staff provides narration on the bow. It is a big team that ensures every expedition is a successful one, and I hope that in reading this you learned some of the names of the people that make this all possible.