All I want for Christmas is…
For the first time in years we found ourselves alone for the holidays. And after a long, busy year my body, mind, and soul craved solitude and quiet. I have been in love with Cannon Beach, Oregon since 1994 when my sister got married on the beach. There is just something special about this coastal town, which calls to your soul. Most visit for the beautiful beach, the town full of quaint shops, intriguing art galleries, and delectable restaurants, and for photographers it is a visual paradise.
Our decision to leave town was very last minute. At first it was hard to find a place to stay with the dates we had in mind or wasn't priced too high. I contacted a place via Facebook. I manage Facebook pages for businesses so I was impressed how quick and responsive they were via messaging. The front desk sent an email with a quote within a short time. I called and they were friendly, accommodating and helpful over the phone. They gave us off-season rates even though it was Christmas. We booked the room, packed our bags and hit the road the next day.
Upon our arrival, I was pleasantly surprised. We stayed at the Lighthouse Inn, but check in is at their sister property, Inn at Cannon Beach. We were greeted by the same person who helped over the phone, check in was quick and easy, they had warm delicious cookies for guests, and over 400 movies to choose from. The Lighthouse inn is conveniently located in town, everything was within walking distance; the beach, restaurants, shops, grocery store. We had a 1 bedroom suite with a small kitchenette, a large tub (this was a treat for me), a fireplace. Comfy, cozy, clean, and convenient.
The front desk gave us a list of restaurants, including two that were open on Christmas Day. We decided to splurge on Christmas dinner and made reservations at Wayfarer. The menu was limited to traditional holidays dishes, turkey and prime rib with all the fixings. The place was packed, the view was wonderful, the weather was gorgeous, and the service was define.
Most of the time the weather was just right, but the day after Christmas was stormy with scattered rain, so it made for a nice day to drive down the coast a bit, our final destination was to take the tour at Tillamook Dairy Co-Op (I was really going there for the ice cream.) We stopped at various state parks along the way and drove through the town of Manzanita and stopped for coffee. For lunch we found a place on yelp, Hidden Acres Greenhouse and Cafe. It was a bit south of Tillamook and when you drive up it is a working nursery, the food and the atmosphere was well worth it.
A few facts I learned at the Tillamook Diary:
On Thursday, the weather cleared up and visitors flooded the town and the beach. The quiet solitude was now filled with holiday cheer, dogs running around, children playing, parents and grandparents. It was our last day there and with cameras in hand we spent hours on the beach, people watching and photographing crashing waves. It was a beautiful end to 2018.
It was the late nineties when we first visited Tofino on Vancouver Island. All I really remember about that trip was the highway from Parksville to Tofino. I remembered being mesmerized by the beauty and the transformation of the landscape as we crossed the island from east to west.
Now, almost twenty years later, we set on the road from Parksville to Tofino again. Flashbacks of memories hit me as we start the journey. We take Highway 4A out of Parksville and no sooner do we leave Parksville do we come to the small town of Coombs. I remembered from years past the goats on the roof. Only this time the roof was without the goats. They are still there, just not out on this day. Oh well, time to toodle on.
It's 33 km to our next stop... Port Alberni.
This time we made a point to at least make a brief stop at Port Alberni. Downtown and Harbor Quay were a bit of a drive off the highway. When we got there, the wind was kicking up a bit through Alberni Inlet, making for a chilly walk along the waterfront. For a Saturday, the downtown area was sort of quiet. We did a quick stroll and then resumed our trip back on the road to Tofino.
The trip years ago was in April and one of the things I remembered most was a river along the highway just before you descend down the mountain range to Tofino. We had stopped suddenly then to see why so many cars were pulled over, it was because the river was roaring over large boulders. It was an amazing site. This time we made a point to watch for this location, we found it, only the river was more somber since the water level was low. Still we pulled over, snapped a few photos, snacked a little, then carried on.
Back on the road to Tofino.
Soon we are winding down the highway with Kennedy Lake on our right side. Spots of the road are narrow, the cliffs lush with vegetation and fairly close to the car. As we reach the junction of the highway where left is Ucluelet and right is Tofino, we stop at the Visitor Center for a bathroom break, a map, and a park pass for the Pacific Rim National Park. We opt for the Beach Walk Pass., after all we are only in the area for an afternoon. The Beach Walk Pass is only good for 4 hours (plenty of time for our excursion) and is only valid for parking lots at Long Beach, Kwisitis, and Wickaninnish.
This must visit area is located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island and is a magnificent piece of Mother Nature's artistry. As you turn right on the highway to Tofino, the sides of the road are blanketed with heavy forests of tall trees, These heavily occupied rainforests have withstood time and Mother Nature's stormy abuse. You can't help but be in awe of their strength and their endurance.
We turn left on the road that leads to the entryway to Wickaninnish parking lot. From the parking lot it is a short hike through the brush, which suddenly opens up to a expansive view of the Pacific Ocean. The tide was out and the sandy beach beckoned us to stretch our legs and crashing waves called us to venture closer. With seagulls flying overhead, squawking as they flew, the waves crashing to shore, and the beauty of Mother Nature at her best, we were in heaven. You cannot help but feel at peace in these surroundings. Breathing in deeply, stress vacates the body and soul, leaving you relaxed and quiet.
We strolled closer to the waves, attracted to the surfers trying to catch a wave worth surfing. Camera in hand, I am mesmerized by the beauty of the area, the surfers, and the reflections in the sand. A photographer's paradise.
Finally our stomachs decided it was time for food, so reluctantly we left the beach and headed into Tofino in search of a nourishing meal. The town had grown considerably since we were there last. Surf shops and store fronts line the main street as we entered town. It was a bustling Saturday but we were lucky and found a parking spot. Before we could discover the town we needed nourishment. We stopped at the Rhino Coffee House for lunch and coffee. The food was good, the service was friendly and quick, and with our bellies full we could now walk around town.
Businesses catering to the many visitors now swarming this small community are intermingled with its old history. The town had settle into a comfortable accord between maintaining its history, the fishing and marine industries that created the area, and the growing new industry – tourism.
It was time to head back to Parksville, our time in Tofino coming to a close. But we had one more beach stop we just had to make. It was a beach recommended by a local. Located outside the Pacific Rim National Park it does not require a pass. As we drive out of town and back to the beaches, we first make a pit stop at Chocolate Tofino, after all we deserve a treat. The place was packed with chocolate lovers. We purchased some chocolate and a Gelato, then carried on to Chesterman Beach. Located in a residential area, parking is only available on the street or a parking lot located just as you turn on the street. The parking lot is complete with restrooms and a shower for the surfers to watch off the salt and sand. The friend who recommended this beach was right, it was a great beach to visit. When visiting somewhere, always ask the locals where they would go, they always know the best spots.
Though I disliked the idea of leaving this little slice of heaven, we needed to hit the road for the 2 1/2 hr drive back to Parksville and we had one more stop to make. When you are heading on Highway 4 from Parksville to Tofino, just outside of Coombs, before Port Alberni, is Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park. On our way to Tofino, we didn't stop at Cathedral Grove because the parking lots were full. Instead, we stopped on our way back. It was evening, close to dusk, and I was glad we had waited. With less people around, it made for a more quiet and spiritual connection with the forest as we wandered through its paths.
Cathedral Grove's network of trails take visitors on a journey through time and awe-inspiring wonder. Towered by ancient Douglas Fir trees, the oldest around 800 years, we are reminded of the amazing beauty Mother Nature offers and why it is so important to preserve it. If you quiet your mind, you can hear the quiet sounds of this majestic forest as it settles in for the night.
This was our last stop on the Road to Tofino and back again. It made for a long day, but it was worth every minute.
It is a cloudy morning as we rush to catch the ferry from Anacortes to Sidney, B.C. We are blessed to live in an area that offers such a diverse selection of beautiful and exciting places to visit and provides such close adventures. A favorite for us is Vancouver Island. Located in British Columbia Province, Vancouver Island is 460 kilometers (290 miles) in length, 80 kilometers (50 miles) in width at the widest point and is home to the capital of the province.
Being an island, the only way to arrive is by plane, boat, or ferry. The Washington State Ferry leaves Anacortes, WA and arrives in Sidney, B.C. This time of year there is only one sailing and you must make reservations. The ferry makes a brief stop at Friday harbor, the last U.S. stop before heading into international waters on the north side of San Juan Island.
Sunshine, pale blue skies, and wispy clouds greet as we cross the imaginary line indicating we are leaving U.S. waters and entering Canada. Sparked with anticipation as we venture closer to our holiday weekend, the island life and small communities beckon us to visit. The first stop as we finally make it through customs is the Sidney Bakery. We needed a sweet treat from this popular bakery to greet us as we start our adventure.
Sidney is located on the northern end of the Saanich Peninsula, so we have to drive south in order to catch Highway 1 north. We don’t make it far on the highway past Victoria before traffic is diverted. An accident involving a tanker truck shut down Highway 1 in both directions, the main arterial for the island. Our 2 1/2 hr drive north now turned into a 5 plus hour drive.
We turn around and catch Highway 14, which takes us along the south end of the island and over to the west coast before we can finally head north again. What is normally a two lane highway use to logging trucks and very little traffic has become the main road for north and southbound traffic diverted from the only major highway on the island.
The drive is scenic as it winds along the coast, the pacific ocean providing an expansive view. We stop in Sooke for a quick lunch and a bathroom break. Luckily we had a full tank of gas because it was the last real stop for miles (or kilometers.) Lines of traffic fill the road as we follow each other on this rural road. We briefly stop at Jordan River to watch the wind surfers. Even though we’re on holiday and flexible, we still have a long drive ahead of us so we only stay for a few minutes. We breezed through Port Renfrew. I wanted to stop but the traffic was moving steadily so we stayed the course.
The road curved through the mountain range. Lush vegetation and large forests greeted us as we drove past. Narrow in some spots and with bridges over waterways down to only one lane, everyone drove courteously and with caution. This little side excursion was not on our list of things to do, but being on vacation requires flexibility and the willingness for different adventures, so we went with the flow and enjoyed a view of the island we would probably have not seen otherwise.
We finally arrived at our destination, a cute little cottage in Nanoose Bay. It was seven hours later, tired and ready to remove ourselves from the car, we snuggled in for the night. After all we still had more adventures coming.
For those living in the Pacific Northwest, specifically the west side of the Cascade Mountains, winter tends to be a long, continuous season of dark, rainy, cloudy, windy and depressing weather. The color of the season is gray, gray, and well, more gray. By January, any spot of sunshine is a welcome relief from the dullness of winter. By February, we are desperate for sun or even a hint of blue skies.
Then it happens—a Spring day. Birds chirp, bees buzz, the sky is painted in various hues of blue, and the sun spreads light and warmth. We emerge from our winter hibernation and venture outside, shedding our winter gear and ready to hike, bike, walk, or simply sit outside soaking up the long awaited sunshine.
Surrounded by beauty and some of mother nature's best landscapes we are offered some of the most scenic spots to visit, and all right here in our backyard. Mountains, beaches, islands, wildlife, seascapes, trails, forests, it calls to us and we answer with a roaring—yes.
It is days like these that remind us why we live here. Suddenly we go from dull gray to a visual explosion of color and beauty...a true work of art. Trees are blooming, flowers blossom, sunlight shines on the water, the mountains shine in all their glory, and life feels alive again. Out of the darkness of winter comes spring and a blast of light.
Life is full of beauty, gratitude, fresh air, sunshine, and color. Enjoy it, we deserve it after months of gray, dark dullness.
This year marked the 56th anniversary of the Anacortes Arts Festival. This well-run event provides a full three days of entertainment, food, music, and some of the best art. This festive and lively event brings thousands of visitors to the town of Anacortes during the first full weekend of August. The downtown street of Commercial Ave is lined with vendors, food, music stages, children's section, food court, and ends at the north end Commercial on the Guemes Channel where visitors can watch the working artist and enjoy the Fine Art Show at the Port of Anacortes Transit Shed building. Learn more about the Anacortes Arts Festival and the festival's Giving Back Programs.
Highlight 1 - Working Artists Area
A favorite of the festival is the working artist area, located at the north end of Commercial Ave, just past the food booths.
PIANO-cortes - This year’s painters include a group of Anacortes High School students, artist Carla Seaton and a local team including Beth Smith, Molly Johnson & Wyndham Jackson. Pictured above is Carla Seaton, Carla's Funky Art. Carla's story was featured in the April issue of Stories from the Front Porch. Read more here.
New this year - Sand Sculpting
Highlight 2 - Juried Fine Art Show
Another great highlight and visitor favorite is the Fine Art Juried Show at the Port. Located at the north end of Commercial Ave in the Port of Anacortes Transit Shed on the beautiful Guemes Channel. Enjoy Fine Art, entertainment on the Port Stage, and enjoy drinks at the Waterfont Pub sponsored by Barrett Financial. Read more here.
Highlight 3 - The Artists and Vendors
The largest draw and the reason we all come to the Anacortes Arts Festival is the artists and the booth vendors. Hundreds of booths line Commercial Ave between 3rd and 10th St. A wonderful mixture of art, handmade works of art, jewelry, clothing, and more... there is something for everyone.
Highlight 4 - The Music and Entertainment
With three stages, you are sure to find something to entertain you and great music.
Highlight 5 - The Food and Beer Gardens
Whatever the reason, whatever you crave to eat, there is nothing quite like festival food at the Anacortes Food Festival. The main food court is always located at the south end of Commercial Ave, scattered throught the festival is goodies like ice cream, kettle corn, and other crowd favorites. This year they added a Food Truck Court on 6th St.
Highlight 6 - The Children's Section
On 7th Street you will find the Children's Section filled with activities for the kids.
Highlight 7 - Jules the Juggler
Always a crowd favorite is Jules the Juggler. This street performer from Bellingham, WA, is a crowd pleaser, drawing large crowds and keeping them entertained with his comedic juggling act.
Highlight 8 - The Volunteers
The true backbone of this well-run organization is the volunteers and the staff.
Highlight 9 - Best of the Fest
Winner of Best of the Fest this year was jewelry artist Heidi Klepper
Highlight 10 - The Visitors and this one dog
By Karla Locke
Author of The Blood Stone Queen and other ebooks, Freelance Writer for Stories from the Front Porch and other publications. Karla shares her passion of the arts and artists, photography, writing, small businesses, and people who live, work, and play with passion.
Short Stories of passion, of life, of people.