As National Geographic Sea Bird guests awoke to a very frigid morning (37F) we boarded pontoon boats for a morning expedition to Crow Butte State Park. The pristine waters of the Columbia River surrounded us, and anticipation was palpable as we set off on our adventure. Shivery, but palpable.

Upon arrival at the state park, we embarked on a hike through the rugged, serene landscapes. The park was alive with animal signs, and the crisp autumn air filled our lungs. The keen-eyed nature enthusiasts among our guests were rewarded with several fascinating discoveries. We observed fresh deer tracks along the trails, evidence of the wildlife that thrives in this unspoiled habitat. Additionally, we encountered coyote scat and tracks, offering insights into the daily lives of these creatures. Our knowledgeable naturalist guides provided informative commentary throughout, enhancing our understanding of this rich ecosystem.

Amidst the natural wonders, a pleasant surprise awaited our guests. As we took a break at the park, our thoughtful stewards treated everyone to a delightful serving of spiked hot cocoa. The combination of rich, velvety cocoa and a touch of warmth from the well-chosen spirits was the perfect way to embrace the brisk morning and refuel for the day ahead. We all enjoyed the breathtaking views of the Columbia River, steaming cocoa warming our hands.

After a warming lunch of delicious, piping hot chili, our guests were given the choice of two afternoon adventures. They could either kayak along the tranquil waters of the Columbia River or embark on a Zodiac cruise around the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge.

Many guests chose the Zodiac cruise, eager to explore this important refuge and witness its incredible wildlife. Others chose a more solo adventure, using kayaks to get acquainted with the area. Our knowledgeable guides narrated the journey, offering insights into the diverse ecosystem. The Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge is a haven for migratory birds, and we were privileged to see a variety of avian species in their natural habitat, including mallards, buffleheads, and snow geese. Majestic bald eagles soared overhead, while great blue herons and snowy egrets stalked the shallows. The ever-changing landscapes of the refuge, from marshes to thickets of willows, painted a vivid picture of nature's resilience and adaptability.

As the sun descended toward the horizon, the light played on the water's surface, creating a surreal, almost magical atmosphere. Our Zodiac cruise concluded with a breathtaking Columbia River sunset, a fitting end to a day filled with remarkable experiences.

Today's expedition aboard National Geographic Sea Bird was nothing short of extraordinary. Our guests explored the enchanting landscapes of Crow Butte State Park, discovering wildlife tracks and enjoying a cozy moment with spiked hot cocoa. A hearty lunch aboard the Seabird nourished both body and spirit, and the afternoon's Zodiac and kayak cruises around Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge immersed us in the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest. This day's adventures, shared with a group of passionate and like-minded travelers, reinforced the transformative power of exploration and the deep connection that can be forged with the natural world.