You can’t fault us. After all, we had discovered a lovely photo of Bass Harbor Lighthouse on Mount Desert Island, Maine, on a site geared for our granddaughter: kids.nationalgeographic.com. It was a lovely scene — classic Maine lighthouse perched atop rocky land facing the ruggedness you come to see when you visit Down East. But getting that shot? Well, that’s another story.
You see, if you head to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse site you find on a map, you land at a nicely paved parking lot. “Piece of cake,” you say to yourself as you wonder which path to take: left path or right.
If you go left, be prepared to walk downward — way downward — on multiple steep wooden steps and uneven rock ledges. And sometimes you’ll be body to body with other tourists lumbering just as you are with cameras dangling around their necks.
But oh, there’s more. You need to prepare yourself for rocks. Sharp rocks. Precariously perched rocks that barely make room for a good toehold. And it’s at the base of those granite rocks that you may want to pause and pay your respects to all who are struggling as they wonder if perching themselves on the one flat rock they can find will enable them to hoist a leg over a nearby sharp-pointed boulder, steady themselves, and take a photo. But climb as you must, you still may not get that shot you saw on the internet.
Our best shot from the left path? This sideways glimpse. Not bad for old people unaccustomed to rock maneuvering, but still not the crisp view of the lighthouse with dawn’s early light behind it.
Now, if you take the right path out of the parking lot, you’re in for much easier walking. Stop at the sign that gives you all the goods on this light:
- Established in 1858
- Cost of land: $80
- Cost of buildings $4,983.35
- Completed in 1876 with fog bell and tower (since removed).
Today, you’ll see the lighthouse with a 4th order Fresnel Lens and Fixed Red light as well as a private residence for a Coast Guard member and his/her family.
It’s from here that you can stand on the level path and have your picture made or take another shot or two of what you came to see: Bass Harbor Head Light.
No matter which way you choose to go — left or right — know that the best photo-ops are probably way beyond the two pathways out of the parking lot. You may now have the same visions we had: hale and hearty photographers climbing outward from the wooden steps, looking upward to catch the lighthouse in its entirety surrounded by heaven above and rocky shoreline below. But we never saw that view.
The best news we have is this: Bass Harbor Light is one pretty sight to see from any angle. So, even if you don’t get a view of the whole and even if you’re not Ansel Adams, you can enjoy one of Maine’s storied lighthouses — all for free.
For more beautiful images of Bass Harbor Light, go to: