Wednesday - February 2, 2000
Made another trip around 1030 hrs across the ice in the aluminium canoe for supplies and library books which went smoothly... however upon returning at 1330 hrs found great difficulty in pulling the canoe back across because of the action of the sun upon the top of the ice, creating a thin layer of slush.
Captain Matthews has walked across the ice shortly before the snow fell and subsequently covered his tracks, but suggested that footprints be avoided for as long as possible so as not to encourage interlopers.
Friday - February 4, 2000
Pulled the canoe across the ice to get Maria Stensel who needed to get her kayak for classes she is taking in a pool. It was snowing so hard that by the time she came down the path and we started back across, the snow had built up so that even with the two of us pulling we got stuck in the middle. This another reason we know the ice is now thick enough to walk on... although to return to the towpath Maria decided to put her plastic bottomed kayak on the ice covered snow and was able to get into that and pull herself across.
Saturday - February 5, 2000
The Sunday caretakers have been called and told not to report.
Around 1600 hrs a young couple walked across the ice to the Island... and the tracks in the snow across the ice served to encourage other... a dozen before dark... thus proving the Captain's theory.
Sunday - February 6, 2000
In the early morning found a "Private Property" sign in the Workshop and nailed it to the end of the ferry so that it could be seen from the towpath. Also used the canoe chain to lock the canoe in on top of the ferry in such a way that the chain blocked the entire end of the ferry. Also locked the door to the Clubhouse upstairs. The sign mostly seemed to deter folks, but it is amazing the number of people that walked across and then actually ignored the sign and crawled over the chain to get onto the ferry so as to walk onto the Island. With one exception everyone left pleasantly after being told "Sorry, but because this is private property, your presence on the Island puts the Club at risk of insurance liability, and we must ask you to leave."
Monday - February 7, 2000
Looking over Snake Island and thus over High Island, noticed a huge, two stage crane which stuck up over Hugh Island from behind... an indication of how large the crane must be.
Recommended to the Club President the purchase of two first aid kits chosen from the Mausune Medical catalog, a wholesale medical supply company. These were 1) a clearly labelled, wall mounted first aid kit for $35.90 and 2) a first aid field kit for $124.95 that is portable, includes a CPR microshield, will handle more serious injuries, and is intended to be kept by the on-duty caretaker.
Tuesday - February 8, 2000
Peter Jones and Tryon Wells came down to ice skate on the slough around 1000 hrs, at which time the Caretaker's Wife walked across to go to the store. Later the boys decided to take a canoe out to the open water on the river, but not until after spending twenty minutes cutting a channel from the Captain's Float using a sledge hammer. It was therefore a surprise when the Caretaker walked across the slough to escort the Caretaker's Wife back to the Island and, only 15 feet from Wife and steps, fell through a soft spot in the ice up to his armpits. Surprised, but not really frightened, until about the third time he was unsuccessful crawling back onto the surface of the ice... as the ice kept breaking and the hole enlarging. Fortunately, it is standard procedure to walk across the ice with a hand on the ferry pull rope. Fortunately, there was no current to sweep him under the ice. Fortunately, the Caretaker's Wife does not allow him to play on the ice without wearing a life preserver... and is certainly not now ever likely to. Fortunately, and unthinkingly, he rolled over onto his back to float, and then pulled hand over hand backwards on the rope until he reached solid enough ice to support him, mainly proving that DNA sometimes knows what to do when the reasoning faculty is inoperable.
Today the temperature moderated and much open water appeared on the river, and by late afternoon the river basin was loud with the sounds of returning waterfowl.
Wednesday - February 9, 2000
It should be noted for the seasonal calendar that today is the day the first sounds were heard of mating and nesting geese.
Thursday - February 10, 2000
This morning we cut a channel for the ferry through the ice remaining along the Island shore which still had the ferry locked in tight, despite several days of above freezing temperatures. This means today is the first day the Island has been open since 20 Jan. We were much relieved to get the ferry operational as we were prepared to employ desperate measures because we had run out of cat food... meaning we would either have to cross an icy river without the ferry or spend tonight in a tent. Anyone who lives with cats will understand the problem. Also, this meant the computer repair person could make his much delayed visit, making a quantum difference in the quality of life for the Caretaker.
Monday - February 14, 2000
Laureen Nicholson called to get info about where to send her dues, and asked that it be recorded that she was offended by the tone of the dues notice that said Members would not be chased down to get their dues. She commented that such an attitude was "hoity toity."
Tuesday - February 15, 2000
We are happy to report that the pileated woodpecker is now seeming to make a semi-regular visit to our feeder every morning around 0800 hrs. In each of the last two years he has landed on the feeder once in the Spring and made a show of staying there for a long while as if to declare to the awaiting multitudes of smaller birds who is "King of the Feeder". But on these occasions he was not observed to actually feed. This year with the cold and snow he comes to feed. You will recall that there is a pair living on the Island in one of the sycamore trees near the river. There are frequently seen together but is unclear whether one or both visit the feeder. I say "he" because one often hangs back... and at least in the animal world sexual stereotypes are not yet politically incorrect.
Wednesday - February 16, 2000
Today completed oiling the Clubhouse floor, doing the small strip between the door and kitchen previously used for access. When walking down to the ferry in the afternoon, startled a small aquatic animal hiding under the ferry, which, if I had to guess, was perhaps a muskrat. The ice melt has caused the river to rise, but only to 4.1 ft. Even with several days of warmer temps there are still large ice floes coming down river.
Thursday - February 17, 2000
Last night there was a ruckus in the men's locker room, and upon investigating, discovered a racoon trying to get into our garbage can. Fortunately, the can has a latch which has thus far proven to be critter proof. Unfortunately, with being iced in so many weeks and having limited opportunities to get garbage up the hill, the can was full and there were bags thrown up on the lockers. This guy did not look like Rocky, our former Island resident who was not seen last year, and in fact did not act the part either, being more skittish, You will recall that Rocky's familiarity with humans was downright un-nerving.
Friday - February 18, 2000
Today young Alex McCoy asked about the age of the map hanging near the kitchen door depicting the area near great falls. He had studied it and noticed a small designation for a gold mine. Seems he has a great interest in trekking around our river area and discovering neat things of interest or re-discovering old things. Now, the Club has a casual group of older trekkers who periodically get together to check out things like the Indian weirs or the old civil war fords or other forgotten points of interest along the river, but I was surprised and impressed to find what seemed to be the same instinct in a teenager. But then, I probably should not have been. Seems to me there is a lot of river lore and interesting history about our area of the Potomac that should not be forgotten, and that in fact, it would be a worthy mission for the Club to undertake the generational transmission of the history of this area of the river. Each year since I have been here we have received at least two visits a year from non-Members investigating some aspect of the local lore and history. Since the Centennial Edition of the Islander has been archived on the web, I have had occasion to direct numerous calls to it. All of this interest... all of this effort... all of this talent... none of it connected!
Therefore, I have two proposals.
One is that an informal group be constituted as the "Sycamore Trekkers". This can be done simply by instituting a telephone list of people who might like to be called anytime a Member has an impulse to trek around. All you have to do is notify the Caretaker you wish to be put on the list and provide your telephone number and e-mail address. If there is a certain critical mass of interest the decision can be taken to go to the next step in formalizing the group by actually having a meeting on the Island some beautiful Saturday.
Second, in re-conditioning the warm room upstairs for the substitute caretakers, we have actually instituted the concept of a small library. But this is a library without definition or purpose. I would like to suggest that the Club make an effort to accumulate and archive books about the natural and human history of the Potomac, especially of our local area near DC. If the Club only spent one or two hundred dollars a year to begin acquiring such books... over time a nice resource center could be available. Spending time on the Island frequently raises questions about the natural world... and what better treat than to be able to walk upstairs and answer them. The contribution by Frank Daspit and Nell Hennessy last year of several bird identification books is just one simple example. It would be nice to get a copy of the American University Report of the archaeological dig on Ruppert's Island. The list goes on!
Saturday - February 19, 2000
The river is rising a shopuld go past 5 ft this afternoon... closing the Club. Monday's forecast is for 7 feet... but as Paw Paw is forecast to go to 20 ft Sun, we should get 10 feet here Tue.
Tuesday -- February 22, 2000 -- The Club is CLOSED
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.3 Water Temperature: 38
The water level was 6.3 ft this morning and falling... maybe the Club will be open tomorrow?
Wednesday -- February 23, 2000 -- The Club is CLOSED
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.8 Water Temperature: 41
Voices in the dark on the iron bridge at 1850 hrs... no lights of any kind... In the cold... sounded like two groups of couples meeting. Then, at 0140 hrs this morning we were awakened again by the racoon trying to get into the garbage can.
Thursday -- February 24, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.25 Water Temperature: 41
The river is falling slowly... and although it may not fall below 5 ft before dark it is so close we will operate the ferry to celebrate this beautiful day with anyone inspired enough to come down. Captain Matthews did come down this morning and brought Jerry, his tree man, to survey the large maple tree near the well. The question was whether or not the tree would pose any future danger to the Clubhouse from falling parts, especially if the proposed addition to the Caretaker's quarters were to be built next to it.
Later in the morning we were treated to the sight of 13 Park Police mounted police riding down the towpath... they looked young and the way some of them sat their horses made it easy to believe it was a training exercise. By 1030 hrs we were able to declare this day the first short sleeve day of the year.
Friday -- February 25, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.95 Water Temperature: 44
What a glorious day... above 50 degrees at 0900 hrs and forecast to rise above 70 this afternoon. The night time temps are not supposed to go below freeing for at least 7 days, so all our house plants are on the steps again. It is loud down here with the amorous squawking of geese and other waterfowl and green tips poking up everywhere.
Saturday -- February 26, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.68 Water Temperature: 47
Such a disappointment... today was to have been so beautiful but this morning's forecast calls for fog and drizzle off and on. Yesterday was a day of firsts... the first crocus bloom... the sudden realization that the funny purple tips sticking up are actually the first appearance of the bluebells... and the discovery in the afternoon that hundreds of spring beauties had sprung into bloom without our noticing. Goose clamor continues to intensify... there are now 12 regulars and one spent the day checking out the top of the canoe shed, perhaps the same one that nested there last year. In the late afternoon a big beaver was seen swimming in the slough and sort of hung out in the ferry channel. Then, suddenly he disappeared and could not be seen resurfacing anywhere. Where could he have gone aground?? Curious, I did a survey, and if you stand on the canoe float and look at MD, a newish hole in the bank can be made out at the one o'clock position. Even the bugs made their first appearance of the year. Our new kitty, Miss T, discovered her first flies and spent the day chasing around madly... stopping only to pant. Many other moths and crawlies made their first appearance, and the day had the magical innocence of Spring right up to that moment in the late afternoon when I got my first mosquito bite.
Monday -- February 28, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5 Water Temperature: 50
Last night's heavy rains may close the Club later this week. The water is already high. It is possible to look at a neat graphic showing the precipitation levels by going back to the Club home page, clicking "regional radar image" and then clicking "precipitation." The rain was pounding down here last night and it was easy to imagine the Island "melting" in places were there is no grass and the bare soil took the brunt.
Tuesday -- February 29, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.77 Water Temperature: 50
Big day on the Island for staff... our newest staff member... Miss "T"... had to have her first vet experience this morning to make sure she doesn't suffer from rabies-carrying fleas from Rocky and his pals... and to make sure there are no shotgun marriages and little kittens in her future. The Caretaker's Wife handled it pretty well.
Notice how the water temperature has risen this week... 12 degrees !! One wonders the extent to which the river temperature is connected to the ground water temperature.... and thus the extent to which it might be an indicator of how fast the soil temperature is rising. Is there a relationship between early rising river water temps and early Spring onset??