It was a beautiful, breezy day in the town of Ames, located in the center of our fair state. My mother had scheduled a five hour visit to Ada Hayden Lake with our family and some of our cousins which I was not particularly looking forward to. We were to canoe, kayak, and fish. My success with catching fish has been about the same as Leonardo DiCaprio’s luck with catching Oscars. Despite my meticulous preparation and the success of people fishing mere feet away from me, fish avoid my line like they heard the worm is carrying E. Coli. However, I could not let Mom down and I knew that I would have fun with the cousins, so we packed up the Jeep and traveled the short distance across the city, kayak perched on top the way it’s supposed to be when you’re driving a Jeep.
When we arrived, our cousins were waiting for us and had already begun lunch at the main shelter. We parked and joined them, my siblings and I muttering amongst ourselves about the low quality of our sandwiches in comparison to our cousins’. Of course, we did nothing to help prepare the sandwiches, so we had no room to complain (although some lettuce would have been nice). During lunch we played catch with a Nerf football shaped like a ballistic missile, testing our arms to see where we stand in the endless competition that comes with being part of my family.
Once we had completed our lunches, it was time to take to the water. In addition to the kayak that we had borrowed from the stupendous Jackie Comito, we rented a canoe and a kayak from the good people at Jax who provide boats right there at the lake at very reasonable rates. My cousin, Skip, was the first to test the waters. The wind made the lake quite a bit choppier than we would have liked, especially since this was the first time on the water for many of us. However, Skip used the boating prowess that comes with his name to safely maneuver his craft around half of the lake.
The rest of the family followed suit, taking turns in 10 or 15 minute intervals. We had a bit of a situation when wind forced Taylor (another cousin) into a corner of the lake and had to be rescued, but everyone generally had a smooth sail. Except for me. Somehow, no doubt because of my muscular physique and ridiculously capable paddling skills, I managed to roll my kayak and take a plunge into the pristine water of Ada Hayden. After recovering from the shock of embarrassment that comes with capsizing a one-man water vessel, I began to push the kayak back to shore, praying that everybody at the lake had managed to miss my little mishap. But of course, that was not the case. Within two minutes of my accident, Jason the boat guy and water rescue extraordinaire had paddled out to my location to save the day. We pulled my kayak upside down onto his in order to empty the water, and he pulled me in so I could paddle back to shore with a shred of dignity.
Despite my initial doubts, I had a fantastic day at the lake, although, of course, I did not catch a fish. We ended up staying at the lake for more than six hours, which breezed past in an instant. In addition to Jason the boat guy, I would like to thank my mother, my siblings, my extended family, and God, for a fun-filled time saturated with laughs and surprises. And finally, a thanks to the late conservationist Ada Hayden herself and those beautiful souls who were instrumental in the creation of Ada Hayden Lake, a man-made lake formed on the site of a former quarry. Thanks to the efforts of these individuals, thousands of people now and in the years to come have a wonderful place to boat, fish, hike, explore, and appreciate the little wonders that can be found in Iowa’s waters.