There is still a bit of a chill in the air as we get started out on our morning hike. It’s fall, and the Columbia River flows calmly below our perch on the Rowena Plateau on the Oregon side of the majestic waterway. The colors of the grasses and shrubs have turned to gold and brown and catch the sunrise just right to provide a warm amber hue.
Early in our hike we come upon a clearing and watch as a small herd of mule deer bound away. It’s a thrilling way to start the day. Our goal is to reachthe peak of the plateau, Tom McCall Point, about six miles roundtrip on a challenging enough route to have most of our group of 12 huffing an d puffing and taking a few rest stops.
This is Day 6 of our UnCruise Adventures’ new “Rivers of Adventure” itinerary, and this cruise is certainly a change of pace from the traditional relaxing river journeys of the past.
While sailing for a week on the 90-passenger SS Legacy, we enjoyed an immersive experience along the Columbia and Snake Rivers in Washington and Oregon.
UnCruise Adventures’ guides create a program that nicely blends information, history and culture on these trips. This means you can enjoy some fun physical challenges in the outdoors while learning a lot about the destinations you visit.
You can choose from these activities on your “Rivers of Adventure” sailing.
Speed Boat Ride in Hells Canyon
We embarked SS Legacy in Clarkston, Washington, on our weeklong sailing toward Portland. After an overnight on the ship, we got up for a short birdwatching walk and then took a daylong boat trip into Hells Canyon (a national recreation area and the deepest river gorge in North America). The speedboat ride is a scenic trip through a remote and rugged area. We spotted big horn sheep, falcons, bald eagles, wild turkeys and numerous other birds.
Palouse Falls Hike
In the morning, cruisers hike at Palouse Falls State Park, the home of the towering Palouse Falls, which are a last stirring remnant from a glacial flood that occurred at the end of the last ice age. The trail descends into a canyon that is filled with wildflowers and features a winding stream. Brave souls can take a plunge in the icy swimming hole with a pretty small waterfall.
I mentioned the hike on Rowena Plateau, and we also had one more chance to hike during our trip. A trailhead for the Pacific Crest Trail is within easy walking distance from the ship’s pier in Cascade Locks, Oregon, and several cruisers took the chance to get out and spend time on the epic route that is designated as a National Scenic Trail.
Kayaking and Biking
On the day of our Palouse Falls hike, we went back to SS Legacy to refuel with lunch before heading out for an afternoon kayak session on the Palouse River to take in more of the wilderness and abundant fresh air. Most people headed to bed early that night – muscles tired but minds filled with pleasant memories.
In Richland, Washington, UnCruise and Greenies bike shop partner to offer bikes for UnCruise passengers to grab and go (included in your cruise fare).
We grabbed a couple of bikes and spent the day in the sunshine pedaling along the Riverfront Trail that traces the Columbia River. This is an on-your-own experience, so you can go at your own pace and pile up as many miles as you like.
UnCruise also offers two guided bike rides on this itinerary. Passengers hopped on to ride an 11-mile out-and-back route on the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail to the Mosier Twin Tunnels. This ride gets hilly in parts, but our payoff was amazing views of the river and a couple beers at a craft brewery afterward in the town of Hood River.
Another short guided bike outing takes cruisers to a winery for an afternoon tasting session.
I thought our three-hour paddle on the rushing waters of the Deschutes River in Oregon was the most fun activity of the weeklong voyage. Five of us piled into a sturdy inflatable boat along with our guide and laughed and roared our way down the racing waters. Sure, there we nice stretches of calm on the journey, and we got to learn a lot about the beautiful canyon’s history and geology from our knowledgeable guide. But it was the times bombing through the Class 3 rapids for a good dousing and reversing our raft into a “hole” for a little “surfing“ that had us smiling from ear to ear.
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