FEELS LIKE WE'RE AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD
"Why do you want to go there?" The ranger asks. "It looks like a bigger town, where we might find a place to stay tonight." I reply. She glances at my map and with a shake of her head, says "No, you don't want to go there."
Gary and I are at the Visitor Centre of the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.
We'd whiled away the afternoon here, learning about the Coal Age. Lush forests covered Joggins 300 million years ago and over time, the swamp forests deposited massive quantities of organic matter that eventually become coal. The fossils contained in the exposed layers of the more than thirty meter high cliff faces fronting the Bay are the world's most complete record of life from that time. It was here that Sir William Dawson discovered a fossil of the first true reptile, Hylonomus lyelli, the tiny ancestor of all dinosaurs that would rule the Earth 100 million years later and unique to Joggins.
At the base of the grey and rusty brown cliffs, we searched for fossils and even found a few. Dallying longer was tempting but we need to find a place for the night. Hence the conversation over our map with the ranger.
She exclaims, "You want to go to Cap d'Or! You'll feel like you're at the edge of the world. It's an old light keeper's cottage. And there's a restaurant. I'll phone for you!" Her enthusiasm is infectious and before we know it, we have a reservation, directions and about forty-five minutes of driving ahead of us.
On the narrow, gravel road leading to the Cap, we hope a moose will not saunter out of the darkening woods. "This place could be really fun," I muse. Or not. But it is so late in the day that we won't be going anywhere else tonight. We finally come to a small parking lot. The steep, boulder strewn dirt road winding down the cliff side looks too forbidding for our rental, so we start walking. Rounding a corner, we are relieved to see the red roof and white siding of the light station basking in the last of the day's sunshine.
Cap D'Or or Cape of Gold was named by French explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1607. The golden glimmers he noticed in the basalt cliffs turned out to be from copper instead of gold but the name stayed.
We enter the Lightkeeper's Kitchen and Inn Keeper Darcy asks "You're the Cullens? I'll get your dinner started." Nice to be expected. Meanwhile, Darcy's Mom shows us our room and kindly drives us up the hill in her 4 wheel drive to get our night things. By the time we have bumped back down the track, our dinner is ready. The room glows golden with the setting sunlight pouring in all the windows. My Caesar salad is crispy and the pasta with scallops is a stellar main.
Before indulging in dessert, Darcy sends us outside to indulge in a Cap D'or ritual, watching the sunset. Not a speck of civilization is in view from the chair on a windy perch in a cliff side hollow. The air is crisp and clean, with just a tang of salt. Looking one way, the cliffs rise vertically in a grey mass right from the beach and are topped with a ruffled green crown of trees. Looking the other, the light station looks small against the wide waters of the Bay of Fundy. The isolation is delicious.
The first navigational aid here was a steam fog whistle, established in 1874. The present lighthouse, with its fog signal and light tower, was built in 1965. After automation in 1989, the keeper's dwellings sat empty until they were converted into a tea room and hostel. This is the only lighthouse in Nova Scotia to offer overnight accommodation.
The Light Keeper's cottage is creaking rather atmospherically with the wind. We meet a German family in the common room. Over cups of tea, we hear about their days spent happily hiking nearby trails.
Before bed, we step outside to see the night sky. The light beacon slices through the darkness with a steady rhythm. Luckily, there is no fog to trigger the fog horn. The stars are just starting to stud the soft blue sky and it is silent save for the sound of waves.
The ranger was right; we do feel like we are at the edge of the world.
IF YOU GO:
Photos by Cullen Photos as noted below
1 Looking for fossils at Joggins: - K. Cullen photo
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