Life As of Lake

Photo by Felicity Holmes

For students, summer can be a time apart from college friends. My good friend Felicity is leaving Ithaca this week to return to the West Coast, and so I’m writing this as a thank you and a goodbye! (I’m still crossing my fingers that she does decide to come back for a few months of the summer, though.)

Last Sunday was my birthday. To celebrate, I went kayaking on Cayuga Lake with my friend Felicity, who was kind enough to treat me to the experience. We rented a kayak from Puddledocker’s Kayak Shop, which is an outdoorsy rental shop located on the inlet of the lake. We chose to rent a tandem kayak because … two heads are better than one when navigating a kayak?

The kayak was adjusted for us, we were given lifejackets, instructions about what time we needed to be back, handed a map of the lake, and then we were off. Our first obstacle was rescuing the straw hat that fell off of my head almost immediately upon us launching into the water. This was a fine challenge for us to have, as it turned out, because it allowed us to familiarize ourselves with the other’s immediate responses as kayakers. I was in the front, Felicity was in the back. Being in the back, Felicity was responsible for steering. In the front, I would need to paddle quickly in order to get us started.

Chaos ensued as soon as the wind picked up the hat. I panicked and tried to steer (difficult), she panicked and tried to propel from the back (useful, but not as effective as steering). Luckily, Felicity is in the process of becoming a certified nature leader. We shrieked for a few moments before Felicity managed to adapt to the situation. It was due to her persistent and valiant leading abilities that we managed to switch roles and ultimately rescue the hat, which was light and therefore slow to sink.

Felicity from that point on in our adventure took charge of the situation by telling me – now and again, as I got caught up in the water, sky and the trees streaming by – to switch whatever side of the boat I was paddling on. She mostly did this when we strayed to the left side of the inlet, because she was determined to stay to the right side. “Is this right side rule protocol in a lake, too?,” I asked Felicity once or twice. She answered vaguely in the affirmative both times, but I’m still not sure if she was serious. Is it only ponds that have no rules?

We almost made it out of the inlet and into the lake that day. But not quite. On the edge of the outlet the water began getting a little bumpy and the direction of the wind seemed to be changing (ha), not to mention that our five o-clock curfew was calling (thanks for the patience, Puddledocker staff!). We ended up paddling fervently back only to arrive five minutes early. Seeing a family in the distance coming from the other direction just as we neared the dock, we convinced ourselves we were at the end of a long race. We only ended up second to last, not last!

I was completely grateful to be able to spend my twenty-second birthday sitting back and enjoying the sunshine and the company of my uniquely navigational-skilled friend Felicity in the Cayuga Lake, which I’ve since learned is the longest of the Finger Lakes and the original home of the Cayuga People. The history of the Cayuga People particularly intrigues me, and so I plan for that to be the focus of my next entry.


kathleen malnatiStory by Kathleen Malnati