At 6:45 in the soft dawn light, National Geographic Quest eases gently alongside the dock at the historic river town, The Dalles. A cadre of coots paddles upstream, muttering to themselves about our arrival while mallards quack in the shallows along the shore. Fort Dalles was established by the US Army in 1850 and became the nucleus for this town that grew along the waterfront. Travelers on the Oregon Trail stopped here on their way west as steep cliffs along the river made it impossible for the wagons to continue on land. Here they built rafts to “shoot the rapids,” a dangerous prospect with their goods aboard, and drove their livestock along the shore on their relentless quest to reach the rich farmland of the Willamette Valley south of Portland.

We board our motor coaches here and head up into spectacular mountainsides for views up and down the Columbia River from Rowena Crest and hikes to the Mosier Tunnels on the Historic Columbia River Highway. Our next stop is the mountains near Hood River for a sumptuous lunch at the Crag Rats Hut. In the afternoon we motor to the Draper Girls Farm to see orchards, sample fruits, and see the antics of the popular pygmy goats. Our last stop is at the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum (WAAAM) on the outskirts of Hood River. The astounding collection here of beautifully restored airplanes and automobiles covers more than three acres.