The end that is the North Light

I wrote about my first exhilarating visit to the North Light, which is at the very northern tip of Block Island. Block Island is shaped almost like a tear drop, a bit of a wonky-shaped tear drop, and at the very top, the land comes to a point which curves off to the east just slightly and dissolves directly into the ocean.

There is no cliff drop-off, there is no “beach”. It is a strip of rocky pebbly land that gradually submerges itself into the ocean. You could walk into the ocean from there and just keep on walking until you are over your head. It is very disorienting in a way, being out on that pebbly spit of land, stretching out and over to the right from the North Light – because it does look like (feel like) it is an ocean liner (say, oh, Titanic), going down into the ocean, and when it is submerged it will leave nary a trace of itself. It’s a very strange place. There is no danger of a huge wave coming and sweeping you into the deep, because it’s all so gradual, but that’s what’s so disorienting about it. You are on firm land, and suddenly you have waves lapping at you from either side – because the water on the west is trying to leap over the spit of land to get to the other side, and the same is true for the water on the east. It’s gorgeous. Sitting on that pebbly spit of land is usually a huge flock of seagulls who give you weird looks when you trek out there. It’s a long walk from the parking lot. The North Light is not accessible by car. It was under construction while I was there, and I saw the pickup trucks driving on the beach to get to it. It is not like the Southeast Lighthouse, which is right off a road, where you can pull over and walk a couple hundred yards to the lighthouse. At the North Light, the road (Corn Neck Road) ends. Just flat out ends. There is a parking lot right there. On one side is the ocean, and you can see the mainland from there. On the other side of the parking lot is Sachem Pond. There is a sweeping curve of beach, sweeping off and over to the right, and at nearly the end of that point is the North Light, surrounded by dunes, and then water on both sides. To get to it you have to walk down a half mile of sometimes rough beach. Then, you can walk past the lighthouse and out onto the point itself. Once you get out to the point, you are surrounded by water on both sides. It’s like walking the plank, only the plank diminishes itself to a point at the end, and the space on which you walk becomes narrower and narrower. Up at the end of the “point”, the currents from both sides converge, and in my many visits to the North Light, I saw this area in many different “moods”. Sometimes it was a gentle lapping of one current against another, but more often than not, there was turbulence, a great meeting of two divergent forces. On a windy day when the surf was high, these converging currents would explode against one another in mountains of surf that looked like mid-ocean geysers, if you were standing in the parking lot looking out at it. Because from that vantage point, you can no longer see ANY land. It is just a line of white caps, jutting out into the sea.

The whole place is just gorgeous, and because of its inaccessibility I usually had it to myself.

Here is a series of pictures I took from my first walk out to the North Light, on a brutally freezing morning.

The North Light viewed across the frozen Sachem Pond.

I am taking this standing in the tiny parking lot, which gives you an idea of how the road just STOPS.

Again, the length of the beach, with the North Light in the distance. It’s morning, so the shadows are really long.

On the beach, approaching the North Light, which is protected by dunes covered in snow.

I climbed up to the top of said dunes to get a clearer picture. It was so freezing. The roar of the ocean surrounding me filled the air.

After you pass that tower, you are in no-mans land of seagulls, seals, and waves. No more evidence of mankind. Here is what the slight curve of that dwindling point looks like, and you can see the turbulence at the end, which can always be seen from a long ways away.

Closer to the tip/end of the island.

The pebbly spit of land has a small hump to it, so you can peek over it and see the waves crashing on the other side.

And now, photo by photo, I will take you to the very end. Of the land. There was one point where I started to feel like the masthead on a ship, facing out, seeing no land in front of me, just ocean cleaving to me. Vertigo. Awesome.

Turning around, at the very tip of the land, I can see my way back to the North Light, along the pebbly spit that is the end of the world.

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5 Responses to The end that is the North Light

  1. miker says:

    Cool stuff!

  2. Cara Ellison says:

    Gorgeous. You’ve really gotten good with that camera!

  3. Patrick W says:

    Nice photos. Why is it that we have the same camera, and yet my pictures never look as good as yours?

    That spot, at the northern most point, where the waters converge, is called “The Rip” In the summer it’s some of the best striped bass fishing around.

    Maybe you can find a deal on a house out there for March? :)

  4. red says:

    Patrick – see I feel the same way about YOUR camera! (even though it’s the same). Your indoor shots, anyway, are FAR better than mine, and I just can’t figure out what I am doing wrong.

    Thanks for the info about The Rip – it is crazy out there. That is where Siobhan and Ben and I saw all the seals swimming!

    And yes, I basically should just move to Block Island because my nostalgia right now is ridiculous. Maybe Christopher Walken wants a housemate??

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