It seems like summer has FINALLY arrived in Iowa (knock-on-wood). After winter snows extended into May and days of cold rainfall in early June, Iowans have finally been able to sport their summer wardrobes. With these higher temperatures the innate attraction of humans to water becomes noticeable. Although I have not had the opportunity to take a day trip to the Mississippi, I incorporate the River into my running route to briefly satisfy the desire to be near water. My gravitation towards bodies of water began as a child in my own backyard.
I was fortunate to grow up with a 40 acre wooded wonderland as part of our family’s century farm. This area included the Little Turkey River, which is part of the Mississippi River watershed. My favorite childhood memories were made during summer adventures in this area with my older brother, Matt. We would set off into the woods with our picnic lunches and fishing poles feeling independent and grown up. In a few hours we would head home after some sort of mishap and in some sort of argument. One of our first fishing excursions ended with us trudging home tangled together with fishing line (casting was not one of my strengths) and my brother complaining of a sharp pain in this foot. Our Mom asked, “How is this even possible?” as she untangled us and removed the fishing hook from Matt’s foot.
Days when Mom and Dad told us, “after all the work is done, we can go camping.” were the days in which housework and chores were completed impressively quickly. Traveling to a campground was not necessary with the natural paradise behind our house. Looking back, the effort of getting ready to go camping was enormous but masked by the excitement of hearing the bull frogs at night and roasting marshmallow over the fire. Quality family bonding time took place as the six of us crammed into a tent. I remember my sister Carrie taking up the most space with her dolls, blankets, pillows, and books (which she claimed she needed) and waking up one morning to find my youngest sister, Sarah, sleeping soundly on my back.
In addition to fishing and camping, we spent many days picking blackberries, catching crawfish and climbing trees. After a day in the woods we usually returned with leaches, cuts, bruises, bee stings and poison ivy rashes; all ailments I hope my future children experience after spending an adventurous weekend with their grandparents. As adults, the memories made along the Little Turkey River often enter family conversation in attempt to embarrass one another. These memories have instilled a deep respect for the environment and fuel my passion for advocating for the Mississippi.
Now is the time to make your own memories. Check out a park along the River or find a way to splash around its waters. It’s worth it, trust me, I know.