There's nothing better than walking on the beach at the end of the day. In the summer, the end of the day could mean as late as 8:00. In the winter, it's more like 5:15.
Heading to the beach late in the summer means I can usually nab a prime parking spot from one of the vacationing families loaded down with buggies that overflow like grocery carts on BOGO days at the Kroger.
By this time of day, the college kids have exhausted the supply of beer in the cooler, had their fill of corn hole, and set off for a nap and change of clothes for the evening bar hopping. There are just a few straggler rental chairs and umbrellas that the lifeguards are patiently waiting to stow for the night.
The winter brings a different feel to late afternoon at the beach. There are no frenzied vacationers struggling under the weight of a day's worth of food, toys and wiped out kids. The coolers give way to dainty picnic baskets the snow bird couple totes down every evening with a bottle of wine and some pimento cheese and crackers. They set up their chairs to watch the pageant of the quiet sunset unfold in front of them. The giant storage boxes that hold the rental chairs and umbrellas in the summer sit as abandoned as chicken boxes after tailgating.
Even though we are on the east coast, South Carolina beaches can throw a pretty good sunset regardless of the time of year.
I’ve found winter sunsets tend to show off a bit. Maybe it's because we're craving some color against the stark bare trees. Pinks and blues were the color palate tonight. I looked to the south and the colors were subtle. They blended together so gently that the horizon line blurred the sky and ocean into a single canvas.
The pinks and blues to the north were brighter and more stark like cans of vivid pink and blue paint had exploded against a canvas. The horizon line was as distinct as the half court line on a basketball court. Those filters you can apply on Instagram were completely unnecessary.
In the winter, the people on the beach at this time of day really want to be there. They seem to have a reverence for what they can experience in a winter sunset. They don't seem as rushed.
Even the runners and bikers seem less intense when they are out for exercise near sunset. People are friendlier and stop to chat at this time of day on the beach (doesn't hurt to be accompanied by a Golden Retriever with reindeer antlers on her head).
Everyone there seems drawn together by this sunset that, like sunset every day, we need to remind ourselves in a once in a lifetime experience.