We ventured up the lighthouse. It didn’t look, actually, like much of a lighthouse—no, it was more of a light station. Grey and white concrete blocks at the bottom support four metal posts that rise a couple storeys above. Steps steep enough to find themselves somewhere between stairs and ladder link to a red platform, which is a metal grate and open to the ground below. At the centre, surrounded by the red metal platform, is the almighty light, protected by a bank of windows that give it its 360 degree view. Another ladder takes the keepers up higher, but that was beyond where we were allowed to go. While the light station is not directly on the coast (there’s a steep forest-covered slope in the way), a collection of buoys remind you of where you are. If it had been windy, the large wind chime hanging from the platform below the light would have serenaded us. As it was, it stood quietly, patiently, waiting to burst into song.
I inquired about the forecast: was it going to rain? No rain in the forecast, he said. The coast here should be covered in fog by now; instead, the sky looked bright, even from my view at the top of the tower. It was sunny and felt hot if we left the shade.
The second light station keeper came out onto the porch and called out to us: “They caught the two men who had escaped from jail three or four weeks ago!” Alicia doesn’t follow the news and hadn’t heard the story, so we had to give her the backstory. He seemed very eager to tell us—strangers—this news, so we gossiped about how it could have been possible that these men were able to escape from a high security prison and elude the police for so long.
The light station keepers attended to new arrivals: a group of three twenty-something Dutch guys. Their conversation began much like ours had: a hello, some small talk about the weather, a sale of some chips, the invitation to sign the guest book. I wondered if the keepers were tired of having the same conversation for 16 years, if they preferred the isolation, if they felt like hikers like us were invading their lazy Sunday when all he wanted to do was lounge outside in his swimsuit.
Cape Scott’s remote location means that only 5000 people visit this light station a year. If it’s not the threat of muddy trails that intimidates people, it’s the roads. The trailhead is 64 kilometres west of Port Hardy—itself a relatively remote town of only about 4000—and the road in between is a potentially rough dirt road. Signs along the hiking trails indicate that this area has always been isolated—too isolated, in fact, for settlement despite two attempts.