Monday -- June 2, 1997 -- The club is OPEN
Your Caretaker awoke late and sore this morning... Peter was right about
the Whitewater Race being the busiest day of the year with the most
ferry crossings. Not that I can complain... Ted and Ann Zahn did most
of the ferry work and refused to leave when their morning shift ended.
With the Loebs they constitute the crack support team that hosted and
represented the Club during this major event.
Tuesday -- June 3, 1997 -- The club is OPEN
Yes... the rumours are true... new grass paths have appeared
mysteriously all over the Island. Surely it is a beaver plot to
discredit the new Caretaker. To suppose that the Caretaker is
responsible is to provoke the thought that he is crazy to have made so
much additional work... irresponsible to have disturbed the natural
order of the Island. You can imagine the beaver's delight: "They will
have to get rid of him now." So the Caretaker has decided upon a policy
of "plausible deniability." And to support his defence of a Beaver
Plot, the Caretaker and the Caretaker's Wife will host a night time
beaver patrol of the Island immediately following the next Monthly
Meeting. Many sites of beaver confrontation and frolic will be visited.
Shameless beaver cavorting can be seen almost every night on the
island... so do not miss it. And by the way... the river is supposed to
rise to the cautionary level of 5 ft at Little Falls Wednesday morning
because of the 4 inches of rain that fell in the Shennandoah. So check
the web page for bulletins if you are planning to come canoeing.
Wednesday -- June 4, 1997 -- The club is OPEN
This is the day of the "Old Timer's Party." This will begin with a noon
potluck and I am told that the food will be reason enough to come. I for
one am skipping breakfast on good authority. I have just checked the
bi-weekly Mid-Atlantic Region River summary on the NOAA site on our web
page that includes the chesapeake info... very interesting reading.
Among other tidbits: "PRECIPITATION FOR THE MONTH OF MAY AVERAGED 2.02
INCHES IN THE POTOMAC BASIN AND 1.66 INCHES IN THE JAMES. NORMAL
PRECIPITATION FOR THE MONTH OF MAY IS 3.75 INCHES IN THE POTOMAC BASIN
AND 3.91 INCHES IN THE JAMES." But that is for the month... be advised
that I was surprised to finally see the river so high this morning
(4.92 feet) and the forcast is for it to go to 6 feet Friday... meaning
the Island will likely be closed.
Thursday -- June 5, 1997 -- The club is CLOSED
Yesterday's Old timer's party was a great success and well attended. The
food lived up to its billing. It was in fact very dramatic because during
the 90 or so minutes of lunch the river rose almost a foot... the result
of the steady rains of several days ago. Because there are several events
scheduled for the next few days, the river forecast is very important...
but dificult to get. This morning Gerry Barton wrote he following e-mail:
"Hey Doc, the forecast today says 14 + feet at Paw Paw. So 7 + feet at
the Island. If ya need any help let me know. How high is time to worry?"
Following is my reply:
"Thanks Gerry... what drives me crazy is that if you read the 0820 river
statement from NWS this morning it said that "tomorrow the stage at Little
Falls is predicted to be 6 feet and Friday morning 5.6 feet."
Now this is being read on Thurs morning because I had already had two
calls about cancelling events or not, and since it had river stage data
from Thurs morning it was very confusing and called into question the
reliability of all the other data. If only they had deleted this obviously
Now there is a 0945 river statement saying "THE NATIONAL WEATHER
SERVICE FORECASTS THE STAGE AT LITTLE FALLS TO BE NEAR 5.7 FEET TOMORROW
MORNING AND 5.5 FEET ON SATURDAY MORNING." So now we will wait to see if
the Paw Paw rule you mention above will be valid or not... although it has
not failed yet.
It would also be wonderful if the USGS graph would be working so that we
could see when the crest were to happen at Little Falls. Anyone you could
forward these concerns to?
Friday -- June 6, 1997 -- The club is CLOSED
The water is above the landing dock on the island... at 5.99 ft... but
hopefully will fall enough so that the Island will be open tomorrow.
Unfortunately Sandra Robinson's school group had to be cancelled.
Following is an incident report taken from a bulletin put out by the
Roadrunners Club of America and reprinted at the request of several
May 27, Tuesday, 2:30 PM, C & O Canal in the area of Sycamore Island
(Iron Bridge). Two women were playing with their dog on the towpath,
when they observed a man standing on the iron footbridge. He was
masturbating "loudly." The women called their dog and began to walk
north on the towpath, away from the man. He came across the bridge
and began to follow them on the path, at a distance of about 100 yards.
After a brief time he vanished.
DESCRIPTION: white male, in his 30's, 5'11", sandy blond hair, no
facial hair wearing a blue baseball cap, long blue shirt and jeans.
Saturday -- June 7, 1997 -- The club is OPEN
Looks like rain, despite the "partly sunny" forecast. Sounds of people
and work on the hill path... and we hope it is the Rangers with more
volunteers to complete their work. Recent rain has washed out some of
the good work done previously. Today is a party day, with Betty Burchell's
church choir at 1000 hrs and 20 cub scouts showing up at 1500 for a
Martha Dozier overnight. And the geese are having a party... over the
last few days the resident population has gone from 12 to 35 adults.
And we have not fed any of them during this time. With 30 goslings...
that is 65 geese and quite a clamor... and standing room only for humans.
The Sunday caretakers are Wayne Limberg for the early shift and Esther
Delaplaine and Stan Cohen for the afternoon shift.
Monday -- June 9, 1997 -- The club is OPEN
Talked to Lt. Watts of the Park Police this morning. He is in charge of the
Glen Echo sub station, having assumed command three weeks ago. He was aware
of the 27 May incident of the masturbating man on the iron bridge over the
canal near the island. He reports that they have adjusted their HMUs
(horse mounted units) to patrol this area "fairly frequently."
He also said that the "scooter patrol" would not be as frequently as in
the past because of budget cuts... claiming his unit is 17 officers down.
Asked what the caretaker could report to the Wednesday night meeting, his
response was: "Think ahead, be prepared, have a plan, and go by twos if
you can." He knew where Sycamore Island is, said he would make sure all
his staff were also aware and informed that a couple lived on the Island.
Lt. Watts was informed that the Caretaker has a military police background
and that the Caretaker and the Membership would always be eager to help as
an information resource or a quick riverside "check it out" resource.
The possibility of an emergency call phone at the bottom of the iron bridge
was discussed, as the newly strung Island telephone cable with unused lines
runs only a few feet from the top of the bridge, and he said he would make
inquiry about the procedure to install such. Stay tuned.
Tuesday -- June 10, 1997 -- The club is OPEN
We must have 35 adult geese on the Island... and with 30 goslings this
means one must step carefully unless one is wearing boots or other footwear
that can get dirty. In about 3 days we went from 16 to 35, and this at a
time when we were out of cracked corn and not feeding them. Surely the
Island will be several inches higher this year from all the goose poo.
Actually, some weeks ago there was the great mystery of the bird poo all
over the large room in the Clubhouse. One could imagine a Hitchcock
scenario of a crazy flock of something which left these kinda oily,
sticky droppings all over the floor. They had to be scraped up with a
straight edge, and still a small, oily patch was left. This was a source
of much cogitation and great puzzlement for several days until the Caretaker
was reminded that this followed a party of small children. A test was
performed that did confirm that the bird droppings were in fact M & Ms
that had been stepped on by little feet and ground into the floor.
The nature of the test will not be disclosed by the Caretaker.
Wednesday -- June 11, 1997 -- The club is OPEN
Last night coming across on the ferry two deer could be seen grazing up river
where the level ground juts out from the towpath. Easy to understand why
deer might wish to swim to Ruppert's to hide out from the joggers and
bicyclists during the day. Tonight is the meeting and the Beaver Patrol
following, and some folks have indicated that they will come early for an
evening picnic. The grill will be ready to cook at 1900 whether anyone is
here or not.
Thursday -- June 12, 1997 -- The club is OPEN
Several people showed up for the picnic dinner scheduled an hour
before the meeting and much fun was had by all. This is a perfect
time for a communal event... long summer evenings with good food,
good swimming, and good fellowship. It is also the one day a month
when Members are encouraged to be on the Island at night and share
the nocturnal beauty so appreciated by the Caretaker. Unfortunately,
the upper end of the Island turned out to be too muddy for the Beaver
Patrol to get to the prime beaver viewing location, and the beaver
successfully continued their campaign of Caretaker humiliation by
failing to make an appearance on the Island for the first time in
two weeks. During the meeting it was asked and clarified about the
status of waiting list people and whether or not they should come
to meetings. If you are on the waiting list you are enthusiastically
encouraged to come to the Monthly Meetings... and especially to come
to the picnic dinner preceding the Meeting and play, hang out, and meet folks.
Saturday -- June 14, 1997 -- The club is OPEN
Today Marty Burgess will bring down a group from Friends Junior High
for an overnight. They will be on the Island from 1400 hrs today until
1400 hrs Sunday. Also. Phyllis Olfky will have a party of about 15 people
from 1200 until 1800 hrs on Sunday. The Sunday Caretakers will be Dan
Dozier for the early shift and Jean Goertner for the afternoon shift.
Do not forget that today is Flag Day.
Wednesday -- June 18, 1997 -- The club is OPEN
Your Caretaker has been out of town taking care of emergency family
business and the Fair Phyl has been holding down the fort. Wouldn't
you know it... the first day she is left to handle the Island on her
own.. she is on the phone thinking she is alone on the Island...
looks up... and two strangers are walking by the door. This is a
shock when one becomes accustomed to the secure feeling of having a
moat shielding one from the outside world and its dangers and surprises.
They were unknown canoeists who decided to check out the place, but Phyl
was so stunned by the surprise of it all that she elected to lock the
door and not reveal herself. Remember, it has only been 5 weeks since
the incident of indecent exposure on the iron bridge near the ferry, and
there is an announcement at the Co-op about an attempted rape near Lock 7.
Ellen Richards called this morning to say she has definitely identified the
handsome large plant that is growing near the canoe shed and looks like
Queen Anne's Lace as Swamp Hemlock: as in Socrates' tea. We decided I
would call the Park botanist to determine exactly how toxic it is,
especially in view of the large numbers of children we have had down here
Thursday -- June 26, 1997 -- The club is OPEN
During the last weekend there was much concern regarding the massive
fish kill of carp ion the river. Over a two day period I verified 13,
and canoeists indicated as many as another 10. One small mouth bass
was also sighted. Why??? What does this mean for water quality that
swimmers might want to know. What are the implications for the
Caretaker's well water??? Many folks are aware of the front page
article in the Washington Post regarding the pollution of the Potomac
headwaters in West Virginia by the huge poultry industry there. Where
to start? Our Club President is a former Director of the MD Department
of the Environment (410-631-3000 or 800-633-6101), and with his help I
made contact with George Harmon (ext. 3856) who provided me with a long
list of possibly helpful sources.
Monday -- June 30, 1997 -- The club is OPEN
Today talked with Sally Bowen of the MD Dept. of Natural Resources, Water Quality Division
(410-974-3238). They collect water samples every 2 weeks at the water intake facility at
Little Falls and send the samples to the State Lab. She reports that it takes two weeks to
get the results back, and then they send it to another department (Bruce Michaels,
410-260-8627) to have the numbers run through a computer where it can take another
2-4 weeks to have a meaningful result that can be given to the public. It was her
belief that Montgomery County no longer tests the water, and her suggestion for more
timely information about water quality was to call Jim Schell at the Washington Council
of Governments (202-962-3242.)
The US Corps of Engineers manages the water intake for WSSC that is at Little Falls just
below the Island and which is part of the Dale Carlia facility on MacArthur Blvd. The
Corps Of Engineers have a hotline number (202-761-0660) from where I was referred to
Kim at the Water Resources Support Center (703-428-8250) who gave me the direct line
to Dale Carlia (202-764-2753.) There I talked to Steve Hales, Secretary to the Director,
who confirmed that he would send me some off-the-shelf information and reports, that they
did indeed test the water several times daily, and that he could indeed put me in touch
with the one human tester on the planet that could answer all my questions, Pete Peterson
Now at this point, you probably think you are reading a litany against government
bureaucratic inefficiency and run around. Nothing could be further from the truth.
At every instance I spoke to people who were pleasant, seriously interested in being
helpful, and who sounded professional. You are in fact reading a lecture on why you
are a disgracefully unappreciative citizen, undeserving of the quality of government
service you receive. Let me tell you folks, after living five years in Europe, I am
qualified to point out just how good you have it. And note that I say "Europe" and
am not just whining about a comparison with "former communist East Europe" where every
petty bureaucrat is a tyrant, because I believe this to be a
So what about the water quality?? Mr. Peterson says the coliform bacteria level is as
low as he has seen it... and he has 30 years of experience. Then what about the article
in the Post about the chicken offal? Well, one would not want to quote Mr. Peterson, but
one gets the impression from talking to him that some well meaning people are being alarmist
now to head off the situation becoming alarming later. What about other types and sources
of pollution? Mr. Peterson points out that the Potomac has never had much industrial
development upstream compared to other rivers. Furthermore, farming practices upriver
have improved considerably, and have in fact changed significantly as a lot of upstream
farmland has been put back to grass and grazing. Grazing... does this mean cow offal?
Well, apparently feed lot practices have also been cleaned up in the past several years.
So what about the dead carp??? The MD Dept. of Natural Resources has a division that
monitors fish kills (Charles Poukish, 410-260-8630.) They were already aware of the
problem, famous river activist Ed Gergler (?) having reported massive carp kills from
Great Falls to Snider's Landing. They did not relate the fish kill to a water quality
problem because (1) it seemed to be species specific, (2) seemed to affect only large
breeding carp, and (3) was likely caused by the lateness of the cold spring waters
forcing the carp to delay their spawning much later than usual thus resulting in
"post spawning trauma." Carp samples had been collected and were also being tested
for infectious carp dropsy virus (not transmittable to humans) and one other carp
disease, but these are not likely, and it was promised that the Island would be called
if anything sinister turned up. Your State government was already on the case.