Tofino Heading South

In Jessie and I, Travel by David48 Comments

Jessie and I on the pier at Tofino just before the skies opened up again and brought winds up to 140kmph. Photo by Al Smith

It’s 7pm on Wednesday, March 02 and I’m on a ferry heading back to Vancouver. The last few days took Jessie and I, and my friend Al Smith, to Tofino. I made a few photographs with my iPhone but mostly the gear stayed in the bags. This last 3 days was a trial run, a chance to take Jessie for a spin, to see if I’d forgotten anything, to tweak my packing, and to make sure things like my camp stove worked (it did) or my roof-top tent leaked (it didn’t). Jessie made the whole trip both ways with grace, and tackled some insane weather to do so.  What I most wanted was to come back with some faith in Jessie, whom I’ve had for not even 3 months yet and never yet driven more than 50 kms at a time. I’m coming back to the city I still call home with a wet tent and tarp, and renewed confidence in this truck that’s meant to take me and my gear across this continent.

The weather in Tofino was insane and I got a ton of emails and notes asking if I was OK. Thank you so much for the concern. We fared just fine, and that alone encouraged me – if Jessie and I can endure those winds and rains (and snows and hails and rivers that once were mountain highways) then I’m confident we can make it through anything. It was the perfect trial run. And if you find yourself in Tofino, find a restaurant called SOBO. I had a bowl of salmon chowder that was good enough to move to Tofino for. Amazing. Bought a bag of granola I’m looking forward to digging into tomorrow morning too. One of the pleasures of these journeys is small surprises like a great bag of granola or a can of freshly roasted and ground coffee from a small roaster in the middle of nowhere. It’s in the early mornings waking to the sounds of wilderness, and making my own coffee. It’s in not knowing where I’ll be next and traveling as light as I’ve done in years. It’s in a rare feeling of contentedness and creativity that I’ve missed in living in the city and filling my schedule to bustin’.

Tomorrow I pick up Dave Delnea and we head south. I’m sorry to say we may be skipping Seattle entirely. Initial plans called for us to head south via the Olympic Peninsula but we’re both feeling the desire to get some miles behind us and photograph a few places in Oregon and Northern California a little more deeply than we will be able to if we plan to cover too much ground. Washington will have to wait for another time but if my last few years has taught me anything it’s that my photographs, and my creative process, fare better when they aren’t rushed – when they’re allowed to go a little deeper than wider.

I’m looking forward to getting some images online, but for the first time in ages I’m not allowing myself to feel pressured to create anything. Might just take a breath now and then, take a few days to relax before getting out the cameras.

If you’re in Seattle and were hoping for a meet-up, I’m sorry it didn’t pan out. Dave and I were meant to be on the road three days ago and we had to cut a few things out, Seattle just happened not to make the cut.

It’s going to take me a couple days to get into a rhythm on the road, but this blog will still be the same place you know and love. I promise not to make it a trucking blog, though it’ll certainly have more of a consistent travelogue flavour than it’s had in a while. I’m picking up a Virgin MiFi device and a SIM chip for the iPad so I’m hoping to blog once every 2 or 3 days, show a few photographs and keep you up to speed on my journey – photographic and otherwise.

Next stop the Oregon coast. Any must see spots, places I absolutely need to eat, stay, or photograph?


  1. When you hit Cali, take the #1 south on the coast from San Fran to Santa Cruz. Worth every minute.

  2. Ahhhh…. just the word Tofino left me with visions of Vancouver Island and better still, points further north – kayaking in Queen Charlotte Islands. Thanks for reminders of the Pacific Northwest. Janine Fugere – As Seen by Janine: Eyes of the World Images…. P.S. Now I get the “queen size bed 7 feet up” comment on Titter! 😉

  3. You’re getting some great suggestions above. My husband and I wound down the coast a few years ago and it’s still one of the most memorable trips we’ve ever taken. It’s a beautiful coast line. The Columbia River Gorge is stunning, albeit not really on the coast. Depot Bay, is a must; watching those coast guard boats entering that bottle neck channel to the tiny harbor is breathtaking. Pick up some Tillamook cheese for the road.

  4. “It’s in not knowing where I’ll be next and traveling as light as I’ve done in years. It’s in a rare feeling of contentedness and creativity that I’ve missed in living in the city and filling my schedule to bustin’.”

    Wonderful words. The trip will challenge and strengthen you, give you joy and creativity, peace and happiness.

  5. You’ve been tried and tested. NOW you’re ready! I love stormy weather…always. Even, or maybe especially when I am out in it. I hope you got some amazing shots!

  6. I am just finishing up a week in Cannon Beach. Incredible, stormy weather, but wonderful beach an Haystack… always a challenge to get a “new” view for an image, but it never grows old!

    A “must” visit place on the coast.

  7. David, if you REALLY want to see the Oregon Coast from a different perspective, check out my father-in-law’s biplane rides out of Florence, OR. His site is The views of Heceta Head, the rocky coast and the Oregon Dunes are phenomenal from the open cockpit of a vintage WWII trainer!

  8. simply put, thats the life!! Enjoy, shoot, change! Im sure youll learn very much and this way your photography will grow as well -but we already know this 🙂

    Cheers from croatia!

  9. I’d suggest hitting the wreck of the Peter Iredale in Ft. Stevens just below the WA border at sunset. The North Head and Cape Dissapointment lighthouses are also nearby.

    If you’re looking for some peace and simplicity (i.e. something much less touristy) check out Gearhart beach a bit north of Canon. It’s a huge drive-on beach with very little congestion. Just you, the ocean, the breeze, and rolling hills waving with sandy beach grass!

  10. Great color! Can’t wait to see some of the photos from the trip down. And when you make it to the San Francisco area, I will have lots of suggestions.

  11. David,

    Even though you’re skipping Seattle, I know that as of 5 pm, you were in bumper to bumper traffic on I-5 going through downtown Seattle. My pop and I saw your rig and I must say, it’s everything you described and more! What are the chances of that?

    I saw some of the best light shortly after 5 and no doubt you two saw it as well. Have wonderful and safe travels. Perhaps we’ll see you back here in Seattle when you come back through.

    Very Respectfully,

    Doug van Kampen

  12. Go to the beach at Pistol River, and then when you get to the bottom or Oregon, take the drive up the WInchuck River.

    Safe travels!

  13. The Oregon coast is so beautiful – I’m a bit envious as I haven’t been there in a few years. Definitely Canon Beach, as well as the other locations already mentioned. Oh, and it needs to be Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. 🙂 Safe travels, David – and I second the suggestion to travel Eastern Washington sometime. I’ll buy you dinner if you ever do.

  14. Bandon, definitely!
    Be prepared to lose some time. The Oregon coast is such a jewel that it is hard to move on. I have never been able to do the whole coast in one trip.

  15. Sorry to hear your blowin’ by Seattle…I’d buy dinner and a few beers. Enjoy the trip and dont miss Cannon Beach….especially if you get a good sunset…… safe and keep us current on your images ….as you head south!!

  16. Good luck with the trip. Looking forward to your blogs along the way. You are one brave and unique person. A quote I think appropriate to your upcoming journey’s:
    ” it is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listessness for fear of what might happen.”

  17. I do understand – so looking forward to the Seattle meet-up, David. I had a couple of small things for your journey – a small but powerful book and CICR (Camano Island Coffee Roasters) and La Crema (La Connor) coffees – both organic and fair trade and awesome. So hope I’ll be able to tag up with you somewhere along the way. Take care.

  18. David,

    I just wanted to publicly drop you a note and wish you a very safe, prosperous, and fulfilling journey as you leave Vancouver and head South. On the first trip we endured the biggest variance in weather I have ever seen and it was a great time proving that you and Jessie are ready for anything! You have always been a great friend and confidant and I will miss having you so close just across the water to visit with. I may have to make new Friends in Vancouver during your absence!

    For everyone else,

    If you have a chance to meet David during his trip I strongly suggest you do. He is one of a kind and your life will be richer for meeting him. If you are driving anywhere and see Jessie make sure you hunt them down and say hello.

    Al Smith –

  19. Hey David, heard you are stopping in Peoria IL on March 19. Think you have time for a drink while in P-town? Looking forward to your photographs from Oregon.

    Safe Travels.

  20. Definitely don’t miss the Otis Cafe, just inland a mile before you hit Lincoln City.

  21. Really good restaurants are harder to find than great photographic opportunities – they’re all down the coast. Try the Canyon Way Bookstore and Restaurant in Newport. Great ales and great coffee are also easy finds.

  22. My wife is from Oregon. I asked her where you should go and this is her list:

    Ashland – near the OR/CA border.
    Lincoln City
    Depoe Bay
    Moe’s Clam Chowder House in Newport
    Nehalem Bay
    Rockaway Beach
    Astoria (GOONIES was filmed there!)

  23. If staying along the coast check out Rogue Public Ale House in Astoria. Great micro brews and view. Of course Astoria is the infamous location for filming Goonies. It’s a very cool seaside town. Canon beach is very close-by as well.


  24. I second the Pinot Noir in Oregon. Sounds to me like your all set… Godspeed.

  25. Have a safe and creative trip South, and maybe you can share one day how the extended tent on the roof looks like?

  26. Great test and results Dave! Glad to hear that all participants are still in tact! Good luck heading South and look forward to the next post!

  27. While you’re down here in Oregon – maybe consider Newport. Bridge, lighthouse, boats – oh- and this great little fish-n-chips place just south of the Yaquina Bay Bridge- maybe a mile (?) down the road on the west side of the road. It’s this little place attached to a little store… called the South Beach Fish Market.

    Staying on the coast all the way to California? Well – if you decide to head inland towards Corvallis- just let me know.

    Safe travels.

  28. The Nelscott Cafè in Lincoln City will blow your mind. Get the peanut butter bacon burger and side of pickle chips. You will not regret it. 🙂

    Send me a message on twitter (@vanearl) if you are thinking about stopping by there and I’ll let the owner (my dad) know to put it on my tab.

  29. The huge bridge at Astoria is amazing in the morning and the evening too. A slow shutter will create phenomial results with the calm like tide; kind of like false creek in the morning.

    Seaside is also a cool little town which is just before Canon beach. Be sure NOT to pump your own gas. The locals get really mad if you try to at least they did with me a few years ago. I believe it is the law.

  30. Ecola State Park as well as Tolovana at Cannon Beach. Three Capes Scenic Route near Tillamook and camp at Cape Lookout State Park. Take Jessie for a spin on the sand at Pacific City/Cape Kiwanda. The Sea Hag restaurant in Depoe Bay for the best clam chowder on the coast. Yaquina Head at Newport. Seal Rock State Park (see above recommendation for Marc Adamus). Camp at Tillicum Beach Campground. Scenic drive to the top of Cape Perpetua for the highest viewpoint on the coast. Heceta Head Lighthouse. Treat yourself to dinner at the Waterfront Depot or coffee & wifi at Siuslaw River Coffee Roasters in Florence. John Dellenback Trail into the Oregon Dunes near Lakeside (camp at Eel Creek campground for the trailhead). Shore Acres-Cape Arago-Sunset Bay state park complex near Coos Bay. Bandon Beach for sea stacks (absolute must). More sea stacks at Pistol River State Park, along the rugged coast of the Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor, and a Harris Beach State Park. If that’s not enough, you can find more in my book. Have a great trip!

  31. Too bad your route isn’t taking you through my homeland of Central Oregon (Bend). I’d love to see what you make of the place. But, I suppose we’re close enough that you and Jessie could make a run down through the gorgeous Palouse region of Eastern Washington and into Eastern and Central Oregon sometime next year. Some truly tremendous country and people around here!

  32. The wine bar in Bandon is Alloro. And I’m pretty sure that you want to go to Beach Loop Road and park at the end nearest to the town. I think there is a campground or two nearby too…

  33. David,
    Well of course, I’m sorry you won’t be swinging through Seattle, so I’ll have to catch up with you in Croatia… But, the Oregon Coast is another story! I had a magical evening and morning there a couple of years ago (with my camera) when I was driving without a plan of where I’d stop. I ended up in Bandon. Last year, I had to go back and it was still amazing. Maybe not quite as magical as it was the first time, but well worth a stop and a little linger. The beach there is spectacular (just south of the town itself). I had dinner at the bar in a little wine bar by that I stumbled across by which started the whole magical thing. Someone sat down beside me and told me where to he went to commune with the Universe… so I listened. The next morning, I just happened to find myself on this amazing beach just before low tide – the lowest tide of the year. Enough said… I can’t say too much about the place. Just go. You won’t be sorry. I’ll see if I can remember the name of the wine bar.

  34. Tolovana Beach wayside in Cannon Beach for breathtaking views of Haystack Rock and the Needles.

    Devil’s Churn for awesome water versus rocks. High tide offers spectacular crashing of the waves.

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