Welcome to a new series I’m calling “Solo Snaps”, exploring some of my favorite photos, their stories, and the musings on being solo that came with them. Click here if you’d like to know more.
It was January 26. For weeks, I’d been fighting a persistent cough and annoying lethargy; I was starting to think that my body was in revolt after I put it through a fairly stressful last half of 2018. The beautiful treks of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, my last real hiking experience, seemed far away and out of reach. I needed to get into the woods, and the sun was out that day. So I stocked up on tissues and headed into First Landing State Park with my dog, Sadie.
The trails in this swampy, sandy park are flat, which means that they get a lot of use. It seemed like everyone was out that day, and I enjoyed the smiles and nods of the passersby as Sadie and I stretched our legs with more miles than we’d done in a while. We did enough distance that I counted the hike as hike 36 of my #52hikechallenge, which is now in its 2nd year.
Right around mile 4 of our 5.5 mile loop, we hit a long, flat, wide, and usually dull section of the Cape Henry Trail. Runners and bikers started to replace walkers and hikers. As Sadie and I strolled along, I caught a shimmer of something purple-ish out of the corner of my eye. I gave it no thought other than to figure it was my polarized sunglasses filtering the light. Then something blue flashed, and I slowed down and looked into the swamp, lifting my sunglasses to be sure I wasn’t dreaming it.
This is what I saw.
Not much to write home about, right? But then I remembered an article I’d read weeks before about some kind of rainbow in a swamp. Since this was a swamp, and that appeared to be a rainbow, I looked closer, and kept walking.
Soon, I came upon this:
Hold the phone. This was for real. I looked around; a couple was walking by, engrossed in conversation, and I made some kind of vague, stunned gesture at them to try to get them to look, but they just rambled past. I walked a few more feet, and then…there it was:
A perfect rainbow…on the swamp. In..or on? the water. All of the colors. Laid out like something from a daydream. I turned again to look for someone to tell, but all I saw was a biker zooming by without a glance. I held up my phone and snapped, looked at the result, and then snapped again, because I was convinced it wasn’t real. I even took a video so I could prove to myself there were no filters involved.
At the beginning of this hike, I’d started at a new trailhead, and within the first few steps, came upon a hollowed-out tree with a gaping hole shaped like a perfect heart. As Valentine’s Day was looming, I rolled my eyes at the universe for taunting me with such symbolic reminders of my singledom, and then promptly forgot about it.
4-ish miles later, I stood gazing at this rainbow swamp that no one else seemed to see, gawking, taking pictures and wistfully wishing someone other than my unappreciative dog was with me. Then something happened.
I decided to take it all for myself. I drank in the otherworldly colors and stopped looking for someone to share it with. It became a sign meant just for me: the universe reminding me that even though I’m far from the mountains, there are still magical things to be seen in the woods, that I can see just fine on my own. Others may have seen the rainbow that day, but for just a moment, all that glorious magic was all mine.
The last mile of our hike went by quickly as we headed for the car; I couldn’t wait to read more about what caused the rainbow. Turns out it has to do with chemicals in the water, and a lack of wind that causes them to build up and refract the light…that’s about as far as I got in my research. Others saw this phenomenon before me, in other swamps; they even became Reddit famous, I discovered.
But none of that matters. I was there, I saw it, and I enjoyed the heck out of sharing it later. And I hope you enjoyed looking at it now. Unless you come visit me in Virginia, and it happens to be 2:45 on a windless day in January, and the chemicals are just right, it’s not something you’re likely to see in real life. So yeah, I’m bragging a little. That’s what’s happens when the universe manufactures a rainbow just for me.
NOTE: The photos above were taken with my I Phone 7. I didn’t edit or crop them, as I normally would; I wanted them to be as close to my memory as possible.