Catherine Ryan Hyde Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of more than 25 published and forthcoming books, including the bestselling When I found You, Pay It Forward, Don't Let Me Go, and Take Me With You.


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Fogbows to Brocken Spectres

Catherine Ryan Hyde

I've probably hiked Valencia Peak in Montana de Oro State Park four dozen times since I started hiking seriously in 1993. But until a few weeks ago, I had never seen a fogbow. In fact, I had no idea there was any such thing as a fogbow. But I saw a fogbow a few weeks ago, the first of three times I hiked Valencia Peak after a break of a year or so. And I had my camera. So that's this first photo. I thought I was being tongue-in-cheek by making up that name, until I Googled fogbow. Here's what I found. 

But this is where it gets more interesting (in my mind anyway). A couple weeks later I hiked Valencia again. And saw my second fogbow.

This morning I took a third trip up the peak, and not only saw a third fogbow, but an odd phenomenon that I had never heard of until a handful of days ago.

Here's how I learned about it. I put my fogbow photos up on Facebook, and soon after heard from my old friend Shannon, who I knew in my Hearst Castle Tour Guide days. She said what I was calling a fogbow was actually called Spectre of the Brocken. I Googled the spectre and decided that what I had seen fit more into the fogbow category, judging mostly on the fact that the fogbow is pretty close to colorless. I noted that I actually had seen the spectre once, while on a commercial flight. I looked down at a plane flying below us, and saw it surrounded by a rainbow. I had no idea what the phenomenon was, or what to call it.

Then, this morning, in addition to my third fogbow, and in the same location at the same time, I saw the Brocken Spectre on Valencia Peak. And photographed it.

The shadow in the center of the rainbow is none other than me. In fact, in the second photo, I'm holding my hiking poles up with my left hand to make it clearer.


Coincidence? No fogbows, no spectres for years and then three sightings in a row? No idea. But it's an example of why training for a big hike is just as much fun as the big hike itself.

Anyone else familiar with these odd sightings? If so, I'd love to hear about it.