I open the door and stand in front of the lady behind the tourist information desk, looking at her but pointing behind me. “The sign outside says I can climb to the top of the lighthouse for free, is this correct?” “It certainly is, the whole park is free,” she replies.
I head up the circular stairs, stopping on the way up and reading a quote on a plaque from beloved Nova Scotia politician Joseph Howe .
On the third level I look out over the view but I am disappointed. The top area is very small and the windows are even smaller. I have been inside the lighthouse long enough, I want to go down the beach.
I descend the hill to the landing. Several people are milling about, looking to get down to the lower area. A park employee walks over and gently herds them away from the dropoff and towards the access stairs where they can get to the shoreline safely.
She addresses them in an outdoor voice: “If you want to circle the island, do that first, then go down to the water’s edge. Make sure you return by 1:37 pm, it is 12:24 pm now.”
I tap her on the shoulder and she turns to face me. “Excuse me, where does the name Burntcoat Head come from?”
“There are two stories; one is the lighthouse keeper left his pipe in his coat pocket and it burnt, nearly started a wildfire. The second, and most likely, reason is the Mi’gmac word for this place interprets to something like ‘head of brown coast’.”
We have a chuckle and I say I actually like the first story better, she nods and agrees. She shows me the stairs that have been cut into the rock.
It looks like red mud but it is actually firm stone, people are far off at the water’s edge. It is definitely a draw but with limited time, I want to circle the island as suggested. I stand and lean my head back to look up at the top. The height is staggering and it’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that when the tide comes in, this land mass becomes an island.
I stop for a few timed selfies then stroll out on the rocks to explore a bit of what feels like another planet.
Completing the island, I return back to the landing. I get a few more photos then call it a day.
I approach the attendant again. “I have one more question, is there a marker where the highest tide was first recorded?”
She says, “No, the tide is read just off the end of the island you circled, but when you come in the park, where the main entrance sign is, the daily tide times and heights are written, if that helps.”
I thank her and go in search of this reporting board.
I hike the short trail up the treed area and find the reporting board on the right side of the main sign. Time has run out for searching the shore today but it was a great experience. I am so glad I came. Please join me as I continue exploring – next up is Cape Blomidon. Happy travels from Maritime Mac
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