Thursday -- January 1, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
WHAT ARE ALL THOSE PEOPLE DOING ON THE TOWPATH !!! DON'T THEY KNOW IT IS 23 DEGREES
OUT THERE ???? And there are so many of them. There must be something in the air...
six small squirrels have been chasing each other and playing at the ferry landing all morning,
and the cats have been unusually obnoxious in their demands for attention and play time. At
least we do not see any joggers in shorts... unlike yesterday when it was merely in the mid
30's. We only had two groups down yesterday. Actually, the most interesting thing that
happened was the installation of a PrimeStar satellite dish so that the Caretaker and his
family could finally get a good TV picture. The technician showed up at 1600 and we worked
through to 2100 when the temperature was 20 degrees. Of course, we then stayed up all night
feasting on the choices.
Friday -- January 2, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
We have named the red bellied woodpecker who is such a frequent visitor to the Dr. Geis
feeder: Elliot. Just seemed right on impulse. He is a big bird... bigger even than the
two doves... and a blaze of color with his red head. He continues to take the seed out of
the feeder and then fly to the corner of the clubhouse where he stores it in the indentation
where the wood slats meet the corner.
Saturday -- January 3, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
Please note that the water temperature is now 34 degrees, making canoeing a more serious
adventure, and that snowmelt in the upriver basin will raise the water level to 4 feet by
Monday. I have sent several recent canoeists to Ruppert's Island to see if the beaver
depredation has been as serious there as here. They report virtually no signs of activity
or of trees
nibbled upon. And in fact, I have seen very little signs recently on Sycamore... as though
they have moved to another neighborhood to continue their census of tasty treats. I am no
longer able to so successfully sneak up upon the beaver at night. Previously I would walk
the Island at night and we would sort of regard each other without acknowledgement from
their side. After their 26 tree nibble spree I got into the habit of stalking them and
shining the light on them to chase them off. I now realize my mistake. To me it was play...
sneaking up on them at night... like the cats chasing each other. But the cats eat out of a
can, and in the very real world of the beaver there is no such type of play: anyone who
stalks must be a predator. So probably they are out there just as much... nibbling just as
much... but I am not allowed to see them... and am much poorer for the lack of that experience.
Monday -- January 5, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
What a beautiful yesterday ! And no secret as there were 43 people logged in at the ferry.
That's right... 43 people on a January weekend !! Massive casualties on the newly sprouting
grass. More incredible still... Ann Kip went swimming yesterday... twice! Upon hearing this
I checked the water temperature on the web: 36 degrees !! The water is rising because of
the warm spell and the snow melt. It is only forecast to go to 4.5 feet today but bears watching.
Tuesday -- January 6, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
Paul Stanton recently brought a new canoe to the Island, and took his older
Old Town out downriver by going over Little Falls. He has done this many
times and is therefore qualified as an authority, and his experience and
advice should be put on the record. He writes:
After a wonderful paddle almost up to Minnie's island along the Maryland
channel we swept accross to the Virginia side for a high flow high speed
return to the island. After we put the new Screamer on its proper rack
we took the Tripper together to scout out the dam.When we got there it
While this is not reccommended, if you do go over the dam: Stay to the
Maryland side, do not go over in high water, put the weight in the
middle of the boat, kneel, stay about 20 feet from the Maryland side,
locate the chute well in advance of the edge, approach with speed, keep
the paddles in the water. The back of the boat will drag on its way
down, brace yourself. My boat has a kevlar strip that glides easily
down. After the short drop, bail, set up to enter the channed on the
left. The take out is a mud bank about 150 yards down on the left.
Wednesday -- January 7, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
Doing the rounds upstairs, I was upset to discover that someone had broken into one of
the toilet stalls in the women's bathroom and used it in a way most unpleasant to clean
up. Probably happened Sunday when so many people were on the Island. It was of course
locked from the inside and a sign posted saying that the water was off.
Thursday -- January 8, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
Lots of people are watching the Island! First warning came from Betty Burchell who
called to say the water level was likely to rise. Two other calls arrived on the
answering machine while we (John Matthews, David Winer and Tryon Wells) were pulling
out the canoes from the lowest rack. The Weather Service predicts a small flood
between 8-9 feet over the next three days. Pulling the lowest canoes is just a
precaution in case the water goes higher. Kate, our relief caretaker for the week,
states that she and her friend will stay on the island through the flood period and
will make sure the ferry stays in the water as the water level lowers. Doc will be
back on the 16th.
Friday -- January 9, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
High water this morning was 7.5 feet and a mini-flood is expected to crest tomorrow at
about 8.5 feet. Unless there is further precipitation over the weekend, water levels
should drop below 5.5 feet by Tuesday. The club is closed until the 5.5 threshold is
reached. Doc is on vacation this week and is expected back on or about the 16th.
Saturday -- January 10, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
The mini-flood is raging! The water level reading this morning was 10.5 feet. Kate
(Doc's replacement for this week) reports that the canoes from the lowest rack that
were on dry lawn yesterday are floating now and that the water is into the canoe shed.
She says there is still 2.5 feet between the water and the canoes on the second rack.
The crest is expected to be tonight sometime and be about 11-12 feet. Readings upriver
at Paw Paw are already down to 16 feet (from 22 feet yesterday) so water levels should
recede quickly back to 8 feet by Monday and 6 feet by Tuesday. Of course, the club is
closed until water levels reach a safe 5.5 foot level. Doc is expected back on Thursday.
Sunday -- January 11, 1998 -- the Club is CLOSED.
The mini-flood's crest past on Saturday around noon. Water levels are dropping rapidly
now. Kate's preliminary report is that everything seems to be in place with the exception
of the picnic table that floated away during last mini-flood. It's apparently gone again!
Otherwise, the pull rope got caught in the water and was snagged by a long, slender log.
Even as the water level drops, the snag hasn't cleared and new debris has accumulated.
John Matthews reports that Monday morning he will free the rope and get things back to normal.
It's interesting that even in a 11-foot mini-flood how much of the Island goes under water.
Flood pictures will be included on the website in a few days. The club should be open again
by Wednesday and Doc returns on Thursday.
Monday -- January 12, 1998 -- the Club is CLOSED.
High water still keeps the club closed and Doc's replacement caretakers must be getting a
bit house-bound by now. John Matthews has run into a bit of trouble rounding up able-bodied
folks who aren't at work but promises better luck tomorrow with the snag on the pull-rope.
The goal for Tuesday is to get the ferry operational again. By Wednesday, the water level
should be below 5.5 feet and the club should be open again. Doc should return sometime
Tuesday -- January 13, 1998 -- the Club is CLOSED.
The pull-rope is freed!! About 2:00pm, Frank Daspit, John Matthews, Johnna Robinson, David
Winer, Tryon Wells and "Lucky" (Frank's dog) converged at the towpath landing with Frank's
15-foot aluminum canoe. With Frank in the bow and Tryon in the stern, the debris that had
accumulated over the past 3 or 4 days was slowly worked free. On a couple of occasions, a
line was attached to a log or limb in the debris and then pulled on from the shore crew.
Eventually, enough had been cleared that the pull-rope finally emerged from the water -- to
cheers all around. The next task was to hook up the ferry and put it back in operation.
This turned out to be a simple affair and the ferry was taken on a victory run across the
channel and back.
The club is still closed. Water level predictions for tomorrow are below 5.5 feet though,
so chances are good that the club will be open. Be reminded that it will be muddy for a
couple of days so bring your boots. Doc is due back at his post on Friday.
Wednesday -- January 14, 1998 -- the Club is CLOSED.
It turns out that the picnic table that was reported missing had simply settled itself in a
way that was hard to see. So it is still on the Island after all.
The Weather Service reports that the water level is 5.6 feet at 9am this morning and still
falling. By tomorrow, it may be down another foot. The club is open but the mud is
everywhere. Either bring your boots or give the Island a couple of days to dry out before
Thursday -- January 15, 1998 -- the Club is Closed.
The Weather Service reports that the water level is 5.3 feet at 9am this morning and
still falling. On the other hand, rain and sleet are forcast today and tomorrow so the
water may rise again by the weekend. A very sloppy day for those intrepid enough to
venture down to the Island. Be particularly careful on the towpath bridge since ice has
formed there and it may be treacherous.
A special thanks was offered at last night's Monthly Meeting to Kate, our steady replacement
caretaker for her fine help during this week of high water. Thanks are also in order to
Frank Daspit for bringing down his canoe so that the pull-rope could be unsnagged. Finally,
a hearty 'welcome back' to Doc and Phyllis, who must think they are out of their minds to
return to this weather after a week on the coast in Mexico.
Friday -- January 16, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
It's great to be back! Do I know how to time a vacation or what!! We had no inkling of
the drama that unfolded while we were basking in the Cancun sun until we tied up the ferry
in the dark and saw the silhouette of the canoes on the lawn as we came up the wooden walk.
Because Tryon did such a great job of keeping up the Caretaker's log I was able to read all
about it and even see the pictures before we went to bed. Now I have talked to everyone and
learned what a heroine Kate was as a substitute Caretaker. I have also walked the Island to
survey changes and damage and can only note again how amazing this new grass is. The beaver
paths are still green all the way to the end of the Island, despite being covered with several
feet of water and, in some places, considerable sediment. There was considerable erosion up
Island, excepting where the grass was established... and in fact one can see even on the main
lawn where there was erosion on bare spots where the grass was not established. As to current
status... the river is starting to rise again... is almost over the ferry landing... and is
forecast to go over 6.5 feet tomorrow morning. Stay tuned.
Tuesday -- January 20, 1998 -- the Club is OPEN.
One thing about the recent 11 foot flood... it washed the Island clean... carrying away
much leaves and detritus. The bad news is that just before leaving on vacation and the
flood I sowed as much grass seed as I could, thinking it would be my last chance, and
certainly it was all washed away. The good news is that the flood left the island a
perfectly prepared and moist seed bed... and I had seed left over which I put out yesterday.
Now let us hope the water goes down and not up.
Wednesday -- January 21, 1998 -- the Club is OPEN.
We should have the electricians down here early this morning to do some new wiring,
including that needed for the upstairs substitute caretaker radiant heater to be safely
operational. Yesterday was the first day for me (not being here during the flood} to not
have folks here. Even though we were closed Monday, 5 people came down and I did not have
the heart to turn them away. Also yesterday... two calls... count them... 2 calls about
Thursday -- January 22, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
We have geese again... no doubt attracted by all the green grass in the midst of winter.
Because the Island is a vivid green in the middle of January with new grass sprouting
everywhere... despite floods and cold. Of course, it is depressing to walk outside and
see 20 geese with tornout grass dangling from their beaks, and maybe there will be none
left when normal weather returns normal people to the Island. Sometimes in the mornings
with heavy frost those flood swept parts of the Island that are semi bare with a tiny
layer of flood silt over-lay looks like the solid caramelized crust of sugar one sees on
over done cinnamon toast. It is incredible to see baby grass sticking up through the
solid glassy crust, which fortunately melts mid-mornings... so far.
Friday -- January 23, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
Heavy rains are predicted all day, and with two inches expected to fall in the up river
basin during a short time, all hands should be prepared to stand to if needed over the
weekend. Still, even during these bleakest days of the year it is hard not to notice the
swelling of buds everywhere... a harbinger of pleasanter times to come.
Saturday -- January 24, 1998 -- the Club is Closed.
Recent rains have swollen the river to 6 feet and rising. The Island will be closed until
further notice. The wisdom of not putting the canoes back into their racks is confirmed.
Monday -- January 26, 1998 -- the Club is Closed.
The water level was 6.5 at 0600 and 6.49 at 1000, so the crest has passed. Still, NOAA does
not forecast the water falling below 5.5 until Wednesday, and the Island will be closed
until Thursday. The Island is still soggy... but
everywhere little things are poking through and peeking out. All manner of spring bulbs
are starting to send up green, fleshy sentinels. The day lilies are making their appearance.
And most amazing of all, the Island is covered in that fresh green of newly emerging grass.
The problem is that there is now such a profusion of sprouting things, that there is no place
on the Island to walk mindlessly, and we now enter the period where the Caretaker will
absolutely have to curtail any night time walks lest he cause havoc with every dark step.
After walking the Island with the Caretaker's Wife I received a stern lecture about my
constant nagging to "watch where you step," and my "neurotic attitude reminiscent of Felix
Unger." But it is true... now is the most vulnerable and sensitive time for the newly
emerging sprouts of every kind. If I had my way Members would be banned from the Island
for the next 2 months.
Tuesday -- January 27, 1998 -- the Club is Closed.
No recent sign of beaver! The recent 11 foot flood carried away both beaver lodges on the
two islands at the head of the slough, and presumably any branch piles above or below the
water line that might have been accumulated for food. Thus I have expected to see a lot
of activity of hungry beaver. Following the previous burst of activity in December, Johnna
Robinson obtained some deer and rodent deterrent spray, which was dutifully applied to all
unwrapped trees where nibbling had begun. But said nibbling had ceased two days previous,
and thus we can not be sure if it is the effectiveness of the spray or simply a change in
beaver behaviour or preferred location that is responsible for the lessened activity.
Certainly it would be nice to have a tree under attack to use as a test case for the spray.
As soon as the water goes down a bit I must get a canoe in the water to check out Ruppert's
Wednesday -- January 28, 1998 -- the Club is Closed.
The water level held steady early this morning, but started coming fast about mid-morning.
At 1400 hrs the "third step" disappeared on the towpath side, and that meant the ferry
becomes non-operational and a canoe had to be readied to receive the Caretaker's Wife...
who was called to make sure she knew to make it to the ferry landing before dark.
Thursday -- January 29, 1998 -- the Club is Closed.
The water level was at 8 ft this morning, and the line on the Little Falls graph was still
rising, so the Caretaker's Wife was canoed over for work... packed to spend tonight elsewhere.
If you are reading this I encourage you to click to the Home Page icon for weather and river
conditions where Tryon has installed a new link. Previously the last link was for the graph
at Little Falls, but now I can access all the on-line river gauges up river and see their
graphs, including Paw Paw, Hancock, and Millville. For instance, it is less important what
the water level is at Little Falls than whether the line on the graph is going up or down...
and most importantly, how steeply. Additionally, if we have some warm and beautifully sunny
winter days here, it may pass notice that this means there is a massive snow melt in the
Shenandoah Valley, but I can be forewarned by checking the station at Millville and get
some idea of how much and when. This also means I can track the crest of the flood as the
up river graph lines start to flatten out, and make intelligent decisions on whether or
when to get the canoes out, or to evacuate. It is totally irrelevant how much it is raining
in Washington DC but crucial to know what is happening upstream, and NOAA is to be commended
for making so many sources of information available on line in real time. Why is this
important? Last night at 2000 hrs when I accessed the National Weather Service River
Stage Statement, it gave the river level at Little Falls at 2133 hrs as being 6.02 feet.
I could look out the window to see that was in error, but anyone who had not such a window
would have been misled unless they could electronically access the gauge at Little Falls and
learn that the actual level at 1800 hrs was 7.30... and rising sharply! Those of us who live
in flood plains need accurate information, and this means having the backup of multiple sources.