JULY 2000

Saturday -- July 2, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 78

During these last few days when the Caretaker and his Wife have been ill, a special mention in the dispatches to Substitute Caretaker Supervisors Jeff Komarow and John Krasny for laboring so hard to find Members to man the ferry... and many thanks to all of you who have pulled together to make it work in the absence of staff. Those of you who worry that the Club evolves more toward a country club and away from a co-op have reason to worry less.

Monday -- July 3 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 80

The mild days of July continue. The big anticipation around here is the hoped for departure of the geese. Only a small group of ten still lingers around the Island, and two of these have not yet grown their new flight feathers completely out after molting... but almost. We were excited when they arrived, thrilled when they bickered and nested, charmed when the eggs came, entertained as the goslings grew... but as with all guests who have over-stayed... we will now be relieved when the leave.... And the constant chore of scraping goose poo off of the floats is no longer necessary.

Tuesday -- July 4, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.28     Water Temperature:

A makeshift flagpole has been fashioned from bamboo poles lashed together with duct tape and erected in the middle of the lawn. The flag has been raised and allegiance pledged. Come on down and celebrate!!!


Wednesday -- July 5 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2     Water Temperature: 80

The Captain came down today and sank rebar to discover the dimensions of the existing footings at the north corner of the Clubhouse so as to understand what would be required as regards new footings for the Caretaker's addition. Actually, last night Phyl and I ran the numbers between the square footage we have and what we would have in the new space... and we were not excited. It looks like our quarters will shrink from 633 square feet to 488 square feet... and if these numbers are correct... we might just opt to have our existing quarters fixed and bug proofed instead.

Thursday -- July 6, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 81

As one approaches the Island on the ferry it is usual now to be able to observe large numbers of fish just before the Island ferry landing when the water is clear. This is new, as for the last two years one would always send the little children to the Captain's float to see and feed little fish. A green heron has been lately hanging out on the Maryland side of the Island and is frequently disturbed as we go to the ferry. All this rain, which is contributing to the lush and verdant plant life, seems also to be contributing to an explosion of animal life... but perhaps it is still the slow recovery cycle from the '96 floods.

It was while looking at the fish while approaching the ferry landing that I saw the 20-inch water snake swimming under water. The water has been so clear it was easy to see a large bottom area. The snake fled the approaching ferry and darted into a tiny hole that was on the underwater shore slope about 8 inches underwater and about two feet from the water line on shore. I stopped the ferry to watch a while, as surely the snake would have to come out to breath at some point. After 15 minutes I gave up. Either that snake had a long hole all the way up to and past the water line where he could breathe... or he can hold his breath an impressive amount of time. One always wishes one knew more about these things.

Friday -- July 7, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 81

While visiting the Island today, Luther Carter was induced to tell tales of the "Dog Wars." By this I mean those several times when a band of Members tried to change the Club rules so that dogs could visit the Island. He relates the "legend" that the reason that dogs were banned from the Island was because of an incident in the 40s in which the wife of an influential Member was dressed to the nines in a smartly starched frock when a dog standing near who had been swimming decided to shake himself dry in that way dogs have. Now, Luther is the first to admit, with an engaging grin, that the tale may be "more apocryphal than fact." But where would we be without our myths.

Saturday -- July 8, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0     Water Temperature: 80

I suppose this shall have to be known as the morning of the three embarrassments.

The Caretaker's Wife arose early this morning to go to temple while the Caretaker must confess he cowered beneath the covers... refusing to get up until the heat had been turned on in the bathroom for some time. It was like some October dream... and even walking around it was hard to get a grip on whether one was in the waking or dreaming state... I mean, let's face it... how believable is it to be wearing a sweater on a July morning in DC.

And then, yesterday, after delivering folks on the ferry to the towpath... the Caretaker turned to pull back to the Island and almost stepped off the ferry into the river!! Now it is true that a firm grip on the rope meant that only a foot got wet... and it happened so quickly that most (but not all) of the crowd did not notice... but there it is... after all the joking and comments to little children not to walk off the end of the ferry it was the pro himself who (almost) took a fall. It is also an important reminder how important it is that everyone pays attention while on the ferry... and it especially calls up the fact that a previous caretaker did in fact drown while operating the ferry.

But most embarrassing is the admission the Caretaker must make that this month's Notes From the Island in the Islander was in fact the wrong file sent to the Editor and not the Notes as written. It is true that reminisces and observations have found their way into the Caretaker's Log on the web page and hence into the Notes... but the primary purpose of the Caretaker's Log is to function much as a ship's log or facility incident report... recording things broken or fixed or otherwise requiring official notice be taken. Prior to each monthly meeting the caretaker's log is culled for all "official" entries and this report is sent to all officers and supervisors of the Club. Thus is was not meant that Members should read of our tribulations in this month's Notes... it was this officer's report that was sent by error to the Editor. It can only be claimed that a borrowed and unfamiliar computer is being used while we still await the repair of the Caretaker's computer... but there is really no excuse.

Monday -- July 10 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 81

Over the Weekend Alex McCoy installed a river aquarium in the upstairs reading room. He has filled it with aquatic plants and small fish from the river... sort of a living snapshot of the habitat and denizens of the riverbank. It is a great delight of little children to come down and look at the fish from the Captain's float, but there are times of high water or following the rains when the water is too cloudy and murky for much to be seen. Now they can at least go upstairs during these times and see the habitat in clear water. The concept, installation, and stocking were entirely at the initiative of Alex, who is seventeen.

Tuesday -- July 11, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 82

On two subsequent Sundays, Susan Young and daughter Laura have reported seeing a mother muskrat and her young at the top of the Island where the new black willow trees have been planted... to the chagrinment of the Caretaker who has not succeeded in having a confirmed muskrat sighting the entire time he has been resident, despite much sneaking and skulking for that exact purpose. Thus there was much excitement when the Caretaker returned from the hardware store today and saw one right at the towpath ferry landing. Well... perhaps the Caretaker was being mooned by a muskrat with a sense of humor... as the only thing actually seen was a diving rear end with an unmistakable tail... a rear end too large to be that of a mere rat.

This seems yet another report to confirm the health of the Potomac gorge habitat. This year there seem to be more fish around... especially at the swimming float and both ferry landings... and several fishermen have reported seeing more herons this year than in any year in memory. There are lots of turtles around this year and more frogs/toads on the Island than any time since we have been here. So come on down... bring your children... keep your eyes open... who knows what critters you might see.

Wednesday -- July 12, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 81

Do not forget that this evening's meeting will feature a Burchell/Brown/McCoy presentation on the history of other clubs and establishments along our part of the river... that will hopefully enhance our appreciation of why we are the only one left. The meeting will start at 7:30 PM as a result and the grills for the pre-meeting dinner will be ready to cook on at 6 PM.

Fisherpersons might like to know that it is reported by the Potomac Conservancy that in late April biologists caught shad in the Great Falls area for the first time since 1949, proving that the newly installed fish ladder does work. Presumably these are fish that were released by students and biologists at Angler's Inn four or five years ago.

Thursday -- July 13, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 81

There is good news some of you have been waiting upon... this is the third day it has not been necessary to scoop the goose poop from a float... and in fact no goose has been actually seen on the Island for a week. This is the latest into the season that I can recall that they have lingered... but just as happy as we are to see them when they arrive... like all guests there is some relief at their departure after such a long visit. We shall see what this portends for grass survival, as there is still much left and the wet season bodes well for nurturing this year's crop into its second year.

Any swimmers coming aboard cannot fail to notice the spectacular tall phlox display on the way to the swimming float. Do not fail to put your noses close to the colorful florets. All this moisture is great for the mid-summer flowers... and there are many places on the Island where distinctive fragrances can be sampled.

Friday -- July 14, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 79

All week long we have been hearing sounds of chain saws coming from across the river, and while we have been unable to actually detect any of the rich homeowners there illegally felling trees... we have been mighty suspicious. There seems to be a lot of activity for just limbing up.

Jim Drew has brought down this huge... I mean, really, really huge... inner tube. It has a slow leak... like some of our others, so he went out and got the Island a patch kit for auto tubes. Apparently these are now hard to find because of the prevalence of tubeless tires... and the bicycle kits have patches too small for our use.

Saturday -- July 15, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0     Water Temperature: 79

Someone gave me A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, his tale of walking the Appalachian Trail, with the warning that it would cause me to laugh out loud. I would like to say more about it... but I am only taking the time to write this because I had to take a break from the facial strain of constant laughter. Whoops... got to go... those laugh muscles have recovered somewhat... must resume my walk in the woods! Monday -- July 17 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature:

There is no doubt about it folks... there is a jungle out there. The recent and continuing rains of this summer have made everything so lush and verdant that making rounds this morning for the first time in a week there were places on the Island that were nearly impassable. During a routine search and destroy mission against poison ivy and stinging nettle it was evident that one dare not turn one's back for a moment in times of ample moisture.

Unfortunately, congruent with lots of lush is lots of bugs and spiders. We are sad to report that on the ferry this weekend it was discovered that a guest had a tick... a large tick that could be seen by all. At least it was not a tiny deer tick of the kind that can carry Lime disease, but nonetheless it means that for the first time since we have been here we cannot give a negative answer to the often asked question about whether or not ticks have been reported on the Island.

Wednesday -- July 19, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.05     Water Temperature:

Your Caretaker had to absent himself yesterday to take the family car in (... named Henry by the Caretaker's Mother, from whom it was bequeathed) for its fifty thousand mile makeover. This turned out to be a day long wait... but is a log entry only because it is worth pointing out that such life maintenance tasks (bank, barber, groceries, etc.) must inevitably require the Island be unattended at times during a six day work week when the Island does not close until 9 PM. Fortunately, the Caretaker's Wife was able to schedule her office work at home for the entire day, and so there was in fact responsible staff on duty during the Caretaker's absence. There is definitely an advantage to having a couple living on the Island. I guess we (staff) have always known this on some level, but credit for vocalizing and making manifest this concept must go to the House Committee, who discussed and sort of adopted it as a goal for future caretakers in the most recent meeting to discuss the goals of an addition to the Caretaker's quarters. Having a couple living here definitely means the Club gets two for the price of one, and thus "staff" becomes plural by definition simply because so much of the job is not only working here but living here... and any partner is necessarily a conscript. It is impossible for us to ponder our good fortune that upgrading the quarters is being considered without also realizing how lucky the Club was to have Peter and Holly live here so long!

Thursday -- July 20, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls:     Water Temperature:

At around 2200 hrs last night the ferry bell was rung loudly and insistently. Unusual on a normal dark evening, this occurred during the heaviest part of last night's sustained downpour. By the time foul weather gear was donned there was no one to be seen at the ferry landing by spotlight. One cannot but help wonder what silly twit was abroad on such a stormy night and what deranged purpose brought them to the bottom of such a dark, wet hill.

The Little falls gauging station is non-functional and river readings have not been available. As a result we have attached a water thermometer to the Captain's float. To our amazement, the temp rose from 78 this morning to 82 this afternoon... a good example of what a sunny day can do to the river. When Little Falls works they put up the data around 1030 hrs, so henceforth the water temp you see here should always be considered appropriately as the bottom of a range.

This is a day for celebration!!! For the first time since the lightning strike of 17 Jun the Caretaker has his computer up and working!!! It has taken three trips to the Island by technicians to replace motherboard, modem, and power supply... before they got it right... but in as much as the only outlay was time and not money... there is no reason to complain. Considering they had to do the same thing back in March... purchasing the 4 year, in home, extended warranty plan (with surge protection) is the smartest thing Caretakers who live at the end of long power and telephone lines can do. Especially since only last year they had to completely replace (and thus upgrade) the computer for the same reason. Computer technicians have now visited the Island 7 times since the extended service plan was purchased, and clearly we are the reason such plans cost so much for the rest of you.

Theoretically, Best Buy could have been forced to replace the computer, but we were unclear when we had last backed up... and we would have lost all the e-mail addresses in our Netscape address book... which we only regained access to today... and that would be such a disaster as should never be contemplated. But most importantly, the Caretaker will not have to deal with software upgrades. It became necessary to purchase a laptop for the Caretaker's Wife who works at home... and the only thing more frustrating than standing around hat in hand begging time to upload the Island log (often retroactively) was dealing with Windows 98. Breaking up the company is not enough... send Bill Gates to jail! Such an unstable platform!! And now I will have to continue to work on her machine until I load Office 2000 because of the problem transferring files.

Friday -- July 21 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 82

Looking out the window over the first coffee at around 0800 hrs a six-point buck and his doe were seen sneaking their way through the underbrush. It was a great show, as they could be observed with anonymous comfort from our "tree house" living room. They did not cross the ferry rope near the walkway, but after hanging out there for a while, walked back towards the top of the Island on the paths as though satisfied they had the Island to themselves. We imagined them hiding out for the day at the top of the Island, but a guest of John Krasny reported seeing the same couple at the Parkway parking lot at 1000 hrs, so clearly they were swimming rivers and climbing hills and covering ground in daylight.

Again we must report another tick sighting, this time in the quarters crawling up the blouse of the Caretaker's Wife. This is the third tick sighting in three day... again not a deer tick... so be alert.

Saturday -- July 22, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 77

Our own Phil Thorson has decided to attempt to do something about the kudzu that is killing so many trees along MacArthur Blvd. and the area down towards the river. His investigations have revealed that various official entities are aware of the problem but are stymied by official reluctance to use herbicides on the kudzu. Phil spoke to Matt Barres of the Potomac Conservancy who turned out to be an information fount and indicated that the Park Service has newly appointed Susan Albert to supervise the removal of exotic invasive plants in the area, and that kudzu and oriental bittersweet are at the top of the list. There are many Club Members who delight in the plants of the natural habitat near the Island... and one cannot help but wonder if they could be motivated to provide a pool of labor to gather when the time and project are set and contribute to the effort. This has got to be the sort of project that would interest school age Members, who often seem more conscious of the needs of the natural environment.

Monday -- July 24 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 78

Rain everywhere... all morning... forecast for all week... and now we have had the first calls from Members concerned that we should be concerned about high water. Gosh... it's a warm feeling to be concerned about, especially as it has been so long since we have had to be concerned about high water and in fact needed to be reminded sometime that it is never a question of "if" but of when. It conjures up the standard distribution principle of statistics... that will require that these three good years of relatively little flooding will have to be paid for at some future time

It should also be recorded that on this late July day the temperature is 67 degrees at noon and only forecast to maybe rise to 70 degrees. Not a good day for press releases about global warming.

Tuesday -- July 25, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 75

Around midnight last night sounds in the screen porch were investigated and a "huge" raccoon was found to be sorting through the metal trash can there. The raccoon was reportedly not only extremely large but lighter in color than usual... in fact a sort of tan hue. The word "reportedly" must be used here because the source here is the Caretaker's Wife. You husbands know this type of incident... it usually begins with a comment such as "No dear, I am sure the sound is nothing, probably just the cats" and concludes with pithy comments from the Wife about how the partner who is supposed to be the protector cowered in his warm bed while the woman had to go confront dangerous noises in the night. You can be sure the Caretaker had harsh words with the watch-cats the next morning.

Wednesday -- July 26, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 75

Additional articles have now been added to the notebook CIA Canoe Pool Stories that is now kept for interested parties in the warm reading room upstairs in the Clubhouse. Rene Dunham had collected several stories in a red notebook and it is hoped that other veterans will contribute their reminisces. Yesterday Phil Thorson and grandson Lars canoed to the Langley side and investigated the old path Sycamoreans used to use to go up to the back gate.

'Tis a cold, rainy morning akin to November... temp in the 60's... the weatherman has now verified that this July is one of the four coldest in recorded Washington history.

Thursday -- July 27, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 75

Even on these dreary, rainy days the summer phlox lights up the area near the swimming area. A tour of the Island paths at this time of year will allow one to sample a half dozen fragrances. We are entering our yellow time of the year on the Island as the first of our several species of woodland sun flowers are beginning to bloom.

Yesterday while walking into the screen porch and past the metal garbage can a squirrel shot out of it and streaked away under the far door... scaring the dickens out of your poor Caretaker. As the day before was the huge raccoon event, an investigation of the contents seemed in order. Sure enough, Members or their guests have been naughty... extremely naughty... in avoiding their responsibilities about taking garbage up the hill. So let's be clear... the metal can (w/o a lid) is solely for members to have a place to put "trash" they may have picked up around the island. It is not a receptacle for "garbage" or the food remains of your picnic dinners or snacks. I suppose this is the place to mention that this year there has been a steady increase in the amount of garbage left on the island, especially inexcusable as the wet weather has meant less traffic. This phenomena is "country club creep," unsuitable for a Club with a long co-op tradition.

Friday -- July 28 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0     Water Temperature: 75

When he felt it he was not quite sure what it was, as he was outside and at the same time he was trying to understand why it seemed as though the lights had just been turned on. It was so unusual, but then the Caretaker realized... he had just felt a sunbeam... something not seen in these parts for days... rare even for weeks! There was a joyous surge in the collective consciousness as creatures of chlorophyll looked up and creatures of the animal world thrilled at the light. All this dreary rain, the Island has not had any intrepid swimmers all week, and even by mid-afternoon today the temperature has barely climbed past 70 degrees. But fisherpersons take note... the water is slightly scummy on top but clear beneath... and despite all this rain the river level has hardly budged the entire time... a clear indication of how much moisture all this lushness is sucking out of the ground.

Saturday -- July 29, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 74

Last night your Caretaker stayed up late to watch a history channel program on Grey Owl, the famous Canadian Indian naturalist who turned out to be an Englishman. We had seen the excellent movie two weeks ago and while there was great interest to see how movie and history channel diverged, the Caretaker's Wife could not be enticed to leave a warm bed. Prominent in the documentary were pictures of Grey Owl's cabin in the woods and his tame beaver, with whom he would swim and invite into the cabin to be fed treats. Of course, one of the most "unforgettable" moments in the life of the Caretaker's Wife was the night beaver "joined" her during a swim in the river, and thus it was perplexing to note that when called to view these images she feigned total disinterest and indeed seemed to be alarmed that her partner was being exposed to and might contemplate such concepts. The comment was something like "We have enough animals coming into this house."

Monday -- July 31, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 78

Hopefully, everyone read the article on the front page of the Washington Post by Joel Achenbach entitled "Nature's Hostile Takeover?" The article examines the growing effects of exotic invasive plants that are introduced or escape into our natural habitats. By now many of you know that restoring and maintaining the natural habitat of our island and the surrounding area is a mission of several Members, including Betty Burchell, Trip Reid. and Phil Thorson... to name just a few. In the article Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson argues that "invasives will cause more extinctions than ordinary pollution." Anyone whose interest was whetted by this topic might be interested in exploring a web site discovered by Trip Reid at that reports on the problems invasives are causing in Rock Creek Park and how the Park Service is trying to deal with it. The entire report, Rock Creek Park Invasive Non-Native Plant Mitigation Program: Final Report, is on file at the Island and may be had by asking the Caretaker. There are lessons to be learned should Islanders attempt their own "mitigation program".