Back to the bucket list
I am sure everyone thought that I had forgotten all about my beloved bucket list. Mainly because I haven’t written about accomplishing anything lately. Truth is, I’ve accomplished quite a bit. I have just been lazy about my writing. For this dear readers, I do apologize deeply!
So without further adieu, I have marked off item. Number 132 on the Bucket List: See the Milky Way from Oklahoma.
Of all the places I could choose, why Oklahoma? I selected Oklahoma because it is a much less populated state. I was hoping the light pollution would be far less and I would have a better opportunity to see the Milky Way. I’ve heard stories from people who live in the Midwest stating that they could see the Milky Way (with a truly milky sky) many years ago in the area. During my trip I was sure to take in many other sites because I was not positive I would be able to accomplish this great Star Gazing feat. The southern Oklahoma state line sits only about an hour north of Dallas Texas. Dallas Texas is a highly populated city with a tremendous amount of light pollution preventing a good view of the night sky.
On our first attempt, we travelled to Eisenhower State Park at Lake Texoma. We patiently waited until the stars began to appear. Bats were prevalent and the crowds of recreation seekers were thinning out as folks packed up to leave. We could see many stars, but no more than what we see in East Tennessee. We waited longer hoping for a darker sky. We were at least an hour due north of Dallas Texas. My husband had an idea for us to drive to a darker place in the park just down the way. There we found a large field where deer often come to feed. The sky was huge! It made me dizzy to look up for more than 30 seconds at a time. As midnight approached the sky had darkened more and there were many more stars to behold. Finally we were seeing thousands more stars than before. I still couldn’t see that Milky Way glow though.
We didn’t give up. A few days later, we ventured onward about two and a half hours into Oklahoma from the southwest side this time. This landed us at the feet of the Wichita Mountains. Homes were very far and few between and businesses were non-existent. We assumed this would be a great place to see the stars.
With all the best hope in my heart we sat there until the sun went down. Darkness began to encroach until the sky was lit by tiny little specks of sparkles. The sounds of crickets and other animals (or insects I could not identify) sounded off in the dark. The stars began to appear and there were more to see there than before. We waited and watched the sky, but truly there were no more stars to see than at Lake Texoma. The closest city was Wichita but there was still too much light pollution to really see the Milky Way. I felt really sorry for Oklahoma too. There was a great deal of trash along the sides of the road we drove on. Also, a couple of state parks we visited had been trashed pretty hard too. It reminded me of how people trashed up the Eastern part of Tennessee in my youth before the Keep Tennessee Beautiful campaign began.
I could see just as many stars in the Oklahoma sky as I have seen along many beaches on the east coast. Every coastal place from Maryland to Virginia to South Carolina to Georgia to Florida – the sky was the same. No milky look, but I enjoy seeing the stars none the less. The only place I’ve noticed where the night sky looks different is in the mountains. The sky has an aura in the Smoky Mountains that I haven’t seen anywhere else. And there are some places where the night sky has no stars (like Dallas).
Star Gazing in Oklahoma was fun and I am glad we can say we did it. But much like the fable of the man who searched all over the world for a giant diamond… and it was found in his back yard after his death – I now believe I should enjoy the night sky everywhere I am. Each moment is precious. Each spot we stand is special. Every star we admire is gorgeous. Every day is an adventure. Embrace it.
If you are from Oklahoma or have visited and found a great star-gazing spot to see the Milky Way, I’d love to hear from you!