JUNE 1997

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 erroneous forecast.
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 members.

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 this year.

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 (202-764-2754.)

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.