Sunnyside Snake River Trip

(from the perspective of Pat Oxley) And we’re off. . . 4 am came early to the folks at Sunnyside who signed up for the Snake/Columbia River Boat cruise. Thirty seven passengers were loaded on our motor coach and we were off. After a brief stop to stretch our legs, we arrived at BWI at 8 am. By 10:35 we were in the air and off for a stop in Denver, with another plane to Spokane, Washington. Friends of the Oxley’s join our group in Denver, and a friend of Ruth Williams joined us in Spokane, so we are now 40 strong.

The weather was perfect in Spokane and we were put up the first night at the BEAUTIFUL Davenport Hotel in Spokane. According to their “Walking Tour” brochure “the Davenport hotel was known as Spokane’s living room since opening in 1914. Named for its first proprietor, Louis Davenport, the hotel was the first hotel in the U.S. with air-conditioning, a central vacuum system, pipe organ and dividing doors in the ballrooms. It was also the place at the which the first Crab Louis was created and served. It closed in 1985, demolition was considered until local entrepreneurs purchased the entire block in 2000, spending two years and millions of dollars to make the hotel again, one of America’s exceptional hotels. It reopened in the summer of 2002, the lobby, ballrooms and public spaces were restored to their early glory; the guest room floors and all service areas are new.”

Our room was magnificent, as was our large bath with walk-in shower. We enjoyed a delightful buffet breakfast and met folks from Oregon and Massachusetts, who were also going on the cruise. Many people from our group went on a tour of Spokane in the morning.

That afternoon we boarded our motor coach for the 90 minute drive to Clarkston, Washington where we boarded our boat. We were shown to our cabins and were happy to see our luggage already delivered. We had a delightful first dinner and enjoyed a dinner cruise on the Snake River. We again docked at Clarkston for the night.

The next morning there were several opportunities for the day and a great many of our folks went on the Hells Canyon Scenic Jet Boat trip. I heard excellent reviews of the trip, but one of the participants will have to give the details. We enjoyed the Hop-On/Hop-Off trip around Clarkston. Many of us spent an hour or more at the Nez Perce National Historical Park. It was an excellent park, along with a nice museum and research center. The bus continued to the First Territorial Capital Interpretive Center and then the Bridablik/Shroeder House.

The Nez Perce Historical Society Museum was our next stop. This museum building was occupied by the city’s first hotel, the Luna House, which was constructed in 1862. The hotel changed hands often and at one point was sold for $500 and a pack of mules. The building was torn down in 1890 and stood vacant until the current Art-Deco building was constructed by the WPA for as government offices. In addition to preserving artifacts, the Society maintains a research library of local history and works with the public to provide educational information. A vast photograph collection is held by the Society. Next door in the 1897 Heritage House which illustrates a Lewiston residence from the “turn of the century.”

This tour continued to the Basalt Cellars Winery. We left at 2PM for our next stop, Richland, Washington. We arrived in Richland at 7am Wednesday morning where we began our morning excursions and the Hop-On/Hop-Off option. Part of our group went on the Wine and Spirits on Red Mountain excursion and a large group went to the Highly Classified: Behind the Gates of the Hanford B-Reactor. Everyone else, who was able did the Hop-On/Hop Off trip. Since I did this option I will tell you about those stops.

The first stop was the Reach Museum (this was also the first stop for the Reactor Tour.) The Reach tells many stories of the region through personal accounts and artifacts highlighting how the top-secret Manhattan Project transformed the mid-Columbia region during WWII. Engineers at the Hanford site raced to produce material for the nuclear weapons that ended the war. This museum covers 14,000 square feet, and additional outdoor displays.

The second stop was at the Sacajawea State Park. This beautiful 284-acre day-use park operated by the state of Washington is located at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers where Lewis and Clark arrived on October 15, 1805. This park has an excellent interpretive Center and museum and features interactive displays that tell the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The Franklin County Historical Society and Museum was the next stop on our journey. Dedicated to help save the history of Frank County, this is was a stop rich in information and an extensive collection of historic photographs and artifacts.

We were docked next to beautiful Howard Amon Park. Approximately 2 blocks from the park is a small shopping area with several cute shops.

One of the things that helped enrich this trip was the presence of our "Riverlorian", Laurence Cotton. He kept us informed through lectures in the show room, verbal lectures on a microphone broadcast on the deck and in our rooms, and through PBS historical movies that he helped to create about the area and about the people who were part of its history.

We left the dock to sail towards The Dalles, WA at 5am on Thursday morning. A couple of hours into the trip we noticed that the boat was making a huge U-turn. We were supposed to spend the day cruising the beautiful Columbia River, but instead, we found ourselves back in Richland, WA due to a Railroad bridge that would not open to let us continue traveling down the river. To make a very long story short, they continued suggesting times we would leave. The actual time of departure ended up being about 12:30am Sunday morning, too late to do our excursions in The Dallas, which had us stuck in Richland, WA for four days.

The boat carried bicycles and several made use of the bikes and headed off to entertain themselves. There was a very nice Farmer’s Market for a few hours on Friday, a movie was shown one of the days and various trivia games and craft classes. Free cocktails were offered for a couple of hours each night.

Sunday we did dock at The Dalles, WA and they offered a bus trip the Country Mercantile Store which was very similar (though larger) than Yoder’s Market. That night we cruised through some pretty territory and as long as it was light we were able to enjoy this. We docked at Vancouver, WA for the night.

Monday morning we boarded our bus for the Portland Airport. All went well until we made our plane change in Kansas City. Our flight from KC to Baltimore was delayed three hours due to weather. We landed at BWI at 1AM, Tuesday (rather than at 10PM on Monday). We pulled into Sunnyside at 4:45am Tuesday morning, tired, but glad to be home.