Winding Down The Columbia River With Un-Cruise Adventures’ SS LEGACY, Part Four

Continue with Peter Knego aboard Un-Cruise Adventures’ recently launched 88-guest SS LEGACY on one of the ship’s heritage-rich Columbia and Snake River voyages with in depth visits to The Dalles and Astoria.

Un-Cruise Adventures

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All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2013 unless otherwise noted.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

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Captain Jill and SS LEGACY at The Dalles.

In addition to being a gracious host, Captain Jill Russell is actually the port (or head) captain for the Un-Cruise Adventures’ rapidly expanding fleet of small expedition ships. Russell, born to a family of aviators, is based at the company headquarters in Seattle but remains in constant contact with all of the line’s ships and is on standby (as in the case of our voyage) to assume command when another captain is called away from duty. A mere day or two after our Columbia River cruise ended, she would be jetting off to the actual nation of Columbia to take delivery of Un-Cruise Adventure’s newest ship, the SAFARI VOYAGER, which will be based in the Sea of Cortez this winter.

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Maryhill Museum.

Our morning excursion took us from the Oregon port of The Dalles across the river to the Maryhill Museum. Named for railroad magnate Sam Hill’s wife and daughter, it was originally planned as a lavish mansion atop a 5,300 acre Quaker farming community but the remote location (near Goldendale, Washington) and lack of irrigation soon derailed his plans. Construction, which began in 1914, stopped in 1917 and resumed again after Hill’s friend, dancer Loie Fuller, convinced him to complete the building as a museum of art. Hill had acquired 80 works by Rodin which were soon joined by a vast collection of items donated by another friend, Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Marie of Romania. The museum was dedicated by the Romanian queen in 1926 but soon after Hill’s death in 1931, progress again stalled. In 1937, another friend of Hill’s, sugar heiress Alma Spreckles, elected to complete the museum, which was finally opened to the public on Hill’s birthday, May 13, 1940.

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Maryhill main floor.

Within its Beaux-Arts facade by famed architects Hornblower & Marshall of Washington, D.C., there are three floors and exterior grounds that include:

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Official portrait of Marie’s daughter, Maria, the first queen of Yugoslavia .

Queen Marie’s royal treasures and numerous special exhibits…

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Rodin at the Maryhill.

…Hill’s collection of Rodin sculptures…

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From Maryhill to Mt. Hood.

…and an utterly breathtaking view of the river and Fuji-like Mt. Hood.

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Stonehenge, Columbia style.

An unexpected treat was a quick visit to the nearby replica of Stonehenge, which was completed by Hill in 1929 to honor those who died in World War One.

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SS LEGACY aglow at The Dalles.

After lunch aboard the SS LEGACY, there was time to explore The Dalles, a town of nearly 14,000 residents that takes its name from the French word “dalle” for rapids.

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Main Street, The Dalles.

The Dalles is believed to have been settled in 1814 near the base of Celilo Falls, a series of strong rapids that were submerged when the massive Dalles Dam was built in 1957.

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Bricks versus rails at The Dalles.

Like many riverfront towns in America, The Dalles yields an eclectic combination of architectural forms, from Victorian to Art Deco and MidCentury Modern.

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On the Columbia with bone in teeth.
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SS LEGACY port Deck Two, facing forward.

When the SS LEGACY sailed that afternoon, I held on tight and savored a wind-whipped view of the Columbia Gorge from her outer decks.

Friday, October 11, 2013

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Pilings at Astoria once supported dozens of canneries.

Shortly after dawn, SS LEGACY thrusted towards the landing at Astoria, Oregon, which is located at the mouth of the Columbia River.

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BAILEY GATZERT stained glass and settee.

We had the morning to explore the Columbia River Maritime Museum, which houses an excellent collection of regional material. I particularly enjoyed the model of and the bits salvaged from the 1890-built Columbia River paddle steamer BAILEY GATZERT

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COLUMBIA Light Ship at Astoria.

The COLUMBIA Light Ship is another “must see” at the Columbia River Maritime Museum. The lovingly preserved, 1951-built vessel served until 1979 as a beacon at the Columbia Bar in some of the most treacherous waters in the Pacific.

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COLUMBIA Light Ship mess.

Visitors can now roam through the preserved ship and wonder what it was like to be a member of its 18-man crew before the ship was replaced by a buoy. The COLUMBIA was the last lightship to serve on the west coast.

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Lewis And Clark Discovery Center at Cape Disappointment.

After lunch, we boarded a coach for a ride across the Astoria Bridge to Cape Disappointment, the headland on the Washington side of the river. We had time to tour the Lewis And Clark Discovery Center, which is on a bluff overlooking the Bar.

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Cape Disappointment lighthouse.

There was also time for an invigorating walk out to the lighthouse, which was built in 1856.

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The Columbia River Bar.

It was a gloomy, if calm day at the Bar. Even so, the rollers weren’t for the fainthearted.

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Violet streets of Astoria.

It was such a gorgeous day in Astoria, Captain Jill decided to postpone our scheduled afternoon sailing to Portland until after dinner. That gave me some time to explore.

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Columnar clue.

After wandering the downtown area filled with charming coffee houses, bookstores and antique shops, I decided to hike up to the Astoria Column. I was just about to hail someone for directions when I discovered a clue in the street.

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Frozen deer.

On the way up past some gorgeous estates with views over the river basin, I spotted a marvelous deer sculpture in someone’s garden. Just as I rounded the next bend, it turned its head…

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Astoria Column.

The Astoria Column is located at the top of Coxcomb Hill, some 600 feet above the town. Built in 1926 with funding by the Great Northern Railway and the Astor Family, the 125 foot tall column is inspired by Rome’s Colonna Traiana. A spiral staircase leads past fourteen hand painted murals depicting the early history of Oregon to an observation platform at the top.

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Astoria overview.
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SS LEGACY from Astoria Column.

With wobbly legs, I enjoyed the view of Astoria and the river on a gorgeous autumn day infused with just the right amount of clouds and deep blue sky. After zooming in on the ship, I zoomed back down to enjoy my last dinner on board.

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Good night, SS LEGACY!

On our final night, I wandered ashore for a final look at our brightly lit ship before heading back aboard to pack and bid farewell to new found friends.

Few places in the world can match the majestic and variegated scenery of the Columbia River. With Un-Cruise Adventures’ charming, atmospheric vessel, the included tours, savvy excursion leaders, immersive historic and cultural experiences, excellent cuisine and wine, there is no better way to experience it!

SS LEGACY sails the Columbia River in April and May as well as September through November of 2014.


Special thanks: Martin Cox, Sarah Scoltock

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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