A Detour to the Milky Way


My throat stung as though I’d swallowed shards of glass. My knees buckled a bit from weakness. My eyes wanted nothing more than to close up shop for the night and rest.

And yet there I was, dragging my camera and tripod out to the shores of New Hogan Lake at ten o’ clock at night. Foolishness.

I had come down with some sort of bug over the weekend. This nasty strain had made my throat ache with such force that I just wanted to be rid of it. My throat, that is. Talking and eating had becoming quite painful, so I spent most of the preceding days in bed.

A dilemma arose; Months earlier, we had booked a campsite next to grandma and grandpa at New Hogan Lake to celebrate a long weekend. Now that weekend had arrived. After several days of caring for our kiddos with little help from sick ol’ me, I could tell that my wife was desperate to get out of the house. The prospect of cancelling our trip and staying home would do her in, but then again, the prospect of going might do me in. Sure, I was reluctant to leave my bed, but the promise of sleeping in grandma and grandpa’s RV gave me the possibility of retreat if all went south.

We packed up the van and headed out.

We arrived at our campsite on the shores of New Hogan Lake in the late afternoon. The kids exploded out of the minivan into exploration mode, journeying into the rocks and brush around our site and beyond. Meanwhile, grandma and grandpa graciously gave the wife and I a hand unpacking our stuff and setting up our tent. My family was raring to go down to the lake shoes, but I was already spent after just a few minutes. I retired to the air-conditioned environs of the RV. That retirement involved a nice, long nap.

The sun was sinking by the time I woke up. I swallowed, hoping that perhaps the nap had dulled the pain. It hadn’t, but I wanted to get up and rejoin the family all the same.

My kids were abuzz with the high of swimming in the lake, wet hair slung all out-of-place over their heads. The adults were pretty happy too. A surf and turf dinner was grilling, and the promise of s’mores kept the kids on their best behavior. Sometimes. I was glad to be back among the living, and occasionally forgetful of how my body felt.

When the time came for s’mores and sticky faces, I finally noticed the great darkness of the sky. Camping far from cities meant that the black was clearer, and all sorts of normally invisible stars were on display. Not only that, we could see an arm of the Milky Way galaxy from where we roasted marshmallows. Everyone else oohed and ahhed. I grabbed my camera bag.

A single photo of the Milky Way over New Lake Hogan
A single frame of the Milky Way over New Lake Hogan

There I was, dragging my camera and tripod out to the shores of New Hogan Lake at ten o’ clock at night, fighting off my sickness. The opportunity was just too good to pass up. I spent the next hour losing track of time, fiddling with my tripod, and doing my darndest to capture on camera just a bit of this beautiful scene. Ultimately, it was too much for any one photo. So the panorama you see at the top of this page is actually 11 photos stitched together (click here to enlarge the panorama). I finally packed it all in and hiked back to camp with a big smile on my sickly face.

Had it been up to me, I would have been home in bed that night alone and feeling sorry for myself. Instead, I spent a beautiful evening with people I love, doing something I love. Sure I was sick, but I was sick and loving life beneath the drama of the Milky Way.

This is just one galactic example of the unexpected adventures that seem to arise when I don’t insist on doing things my own way.

Perhaps I should get my way less often?

Hang this photo on your wall

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When was the last time you delighted in one of life’s detours?


  • Stephen Hadeen 07-20-2016

    Great shot. Those Milky Way photos are always cool

    • P.J. Oswald 07-20-2016

      Thanks Steve! This was my fourth attempt at pictures like these, and I finally got some that turned out. Have you tried this sort of photography?

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