At 6:00 on this brisk morning as National Geographic Quest makes her way downstream on the Snake River, the constellation Orion stands high in the southern sky as the palest light of dawn glows on the eastern horizon. By 7:00 we are dropping anchor at the Palouse River’s confluence with the Snake. In the growing light we see, rising on either side of the river, dark, layered basalt cliffs trimmed out by the pale, buff-colored grasses of autumn. Here we make preparations for our day of adventures: visiting Palouse Falls where the water of the Palouse River leaps over a precipice of basalt and plunges 198 feet down its tumultuous green plunge pool below; kayaking on still water with Canada geese; taking Zodiac tours upstream into the Palouse River and into the rugged and beautiful Palouse Canyon, carved by Ice Age floods into bold cliffs that rise high above the river.
National Geographic Sea Bird
Our morning began alongside the dock in our final port of Clarkston, Washington with a glowing sky and flocks of migrating waterfowl inscribing Vs through the air. After breakfast, guests boarded 34-foot-long jet boats for an excursion along the Snake River to its confluence with the Salmon River, fondly known as the River of No Return. Along our journey we saw bighorn sheep, great blue herons, common mergansers, belted kingfishers, Canada geese, petroglyphs, wild turkeys, columnar basalt, swimming mule deer, and a bald eagle flying with a large salmon. We also enjoyed fortuitous timing and witnessed a fisherman hook an eight-foot-long sturgeon. After a long battle, he finally pulled it to the shallows for his whole family (and us) to see. As evening approached, we settled into the lounge for our final series of educational talks, featuring Nez Perce storyteller James Spencer and winemaker Coco Umiker, both of whom illuminated important contexts of the beautiful basin. Following our wine tasting with Coco, guests set off for their final on-board dinner. After dinner, we bid farewell through photos. Our photo instructor showcased a mosaic of moments from the week, otherwise known as the Guest Slideshow. Included in the slideshow were praying mantises, birds of prey, sunsets, and staff members being goofy, as per usual. We couldn’t be more grateful for our time together, all of us, during this last week of October 2022.