Thursday -- February 1, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 37

Member John Krasny has called to ask if anyone in the Club is looking to buy a second hand kayak, having noticed that one would be auctioned at the annual Cedar Lane Unitarian Church Auction on 7 Feb.

We were awakened at dawn again this morning by loud, hormonal geese. The season is upon us and barring the use of earplugs there will be no late snoozing into the daylight hours... kinda like having small children in the family. There are now two couples that have become territorial and are attempting to bully any others who pass by into leaving.

Friday -- February 2, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.5     Water Temperature: 37

The Island is open... although you will note the water is at that level where it should be closed. This is because the river crested this morning and although the level is between 5 (officially hazardous) and 5.5 feet at the Little Falls gauge... it is falling. The clear weather has brought us the first visitors in a while. The Caretaker was ready to forbid tenderfoot canoeing desires, but it sufficed to point out that there was now no way to get out on the canoeing float without getting one's feet wet.

Even this early signs of spring abound to give hope of times to come. Bulblets of all kinds are showing green sentinels. The dogwood adjacent to the pedestrian overpass has purple branches tipped with swollen buds. Our houseplants are putting out new growth, and the potted roses and gardenias are beginning to bloom... a sure sign that the increasing daily sunlight has passed some critical threshold. There may be snows yet to come, but on days like this any visitor can witness the promises of stirring beauty.

Saturday -- February 3, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.0     Water Temperature: 33

The river is high but the Island is open. Peter Geiger will host a large party for cub scouts at noon. It is a raw day down here... ice forming on the edges of the river again... and the one working warm toilet must be plunged with the plumber's helper after each use... so all visitors should be prepared.

This morning there was a red tailed hawk cruising the window feeder attached to the high windows facing the towpath. We were lucky in our timing and literally had a front row seat. Up close one realizes what massive birds they are. Surprisingly, the chickadees and the titmice did not seem to be too cowed or impressed, and barely paused in their early morning feeding frenzy, perhaps feeling they were too nimble with so many sharp corners around to feel threatened.

Monday -- February 5, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.3     Water Temperature: 37

Your caretaker is taking a sick day. Yesterday's strange illness grew worse to the extent that last night the caretaker had to be taken off the Island for emergency medical treatment. The probable cause seemed to be the five nasty bites of mysterious origin with which he had awakened and that the doctor suggested were spider bites. In winter???

This is the third time this year that serious illness has resulted from bites sustained while sleeping in the unique bed in the quarters which is built out of the floor... the same damaged floor, part of which is an old ping pong table top, which continues to deteriorate following the 1996 floods. There seems to be no way to seal the deteriorating floor in such a way as to deter any creatures that live under the building from sharing the bed at night. The Caretaker is profoundly lucky that these biting incidents, although not all the sighting incidents, have happened on his side of the bed, else some new staff would be writing this report. Trepidation at getting back in bed each night is lessened only by the promise that the club will finally construct a new bedroom, although it should be noted that the first attempt to solve this problem was when a contract to do so was requested, received, and rejected in 1998.

Tuesday -- February 6, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 36

The Caretaker is responding to treatment, and it now seems likely he will not have to be admitted to the hospital, as was feared, although it is now also clear that this is only because the Caretaker's Wife insisted that emergency medical treatment be obtained Sunday night, rather than waiting for Monday morning. The diagnosis is severe cellulites... specifically, rampant infection of the connective tissues of the lower left leg, presumably induced by multiple spider bites as he lay asleep in bed. As the Caretaker is required to stay in bed for the next several days, Members visiting the Island before the weekend should be prepared to find the ferry locked up. The Substitute Caretaker Supervisor has been notified to find coverage for Saturday.

The Caretaker's Wife deserves additional mention in the dispatches for cool management of the aftermath of a canoeing accident Sunday. Turning abreast a strong wind, a Member tipped his canoe. Although not wearing a life preserver, he swam to shore in 35 degree water. Substitute caretaker Vicki Judson brought the Member to the quarters where the Caretaker's Wife took charge and saw that he got immediately into a hot shower to forestall hypothermia, and provided hot liquids and dry clothing... all this while also ministering to the Caretaker who lay feverish and generally out of it. Vicki organized Members to help retrieve the errant canoe before it could go over the falls.

It was a busy day for the first weekend in February, with 39 people signed in on the ferry.

Monday -- February 12, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 41

For over a week we have heard an owl just about every night. In years before there was an occasional call, but now this new neighbor has become a regular component of our nighttime soundscape. Last night, in the early evening, the owl was so surprisingly loud that we were convinced he was just outside, as we could hear him over the TV and all other indoor sounds and with the windows tightly shut. So all indoor lights and sounds were turned off as we opened a window to try to see him in the moonlight... of course to no avail. What we did determine was that at his loudest he seemed to be across the towpath and up the hill, and that he seems to cruise the canal.

Tuesday -- February 13, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 40

A suet feeder hangs from a limb that is about three feet from the living room windows. The other night the Caretaker, unable to sleep, was up in the living room and chanced to look out to see on the limb... something large looking in!!! Well... it was a shocker, a frozen moment. When the adrenalin spike started to subside and eyeball focus returned, it was unclear just exactly what the creature was. The moon was down and it was dark, and in fact all that could be made out at first was a shadowy outline on the near branch, that might have gone unnoticed by anyone not aware of where every shadow should be, as can only conditioned by long familiarization. That... and the prickly certainty of being watched. Somehow the outline was too sharp to be a racoon, and the next thought was that it might be the elusive owl. So close... and yet so mysterious. Finally, unable to stand it, a slow move was made for a flashlight and in an instant the shadow was gone. Much later in the wee hours, hanging out the open window, flashlight at the ready, the mystery was finally revealed when the twelve-foot man walked out from beneath the quarters. Ah... but the story of the twelve foot man is untold because of acute embarrassment to the Caretaker... so you do not know that it was Petey... the possum.

Wednesday -- February 14, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls:     Water Temperature:

As dusk fell two groups of cormorants flew in to the Cormorant Hotel area at the foot of Ruppert's Island. These are the first cormorants to appear for the year. Later, coming home from tonight's Sycamore Island monthly meeting, the Caretaker was treated to two beaver tail slaps on the water. A treat, because both beaver sightings and beaver scourges on the Island's trees have been minimal for about two years. In fact, it should be noted that beaver sightings diminished around the same time that the two beaver that were doing so much damage downtown to the Japanese cherry trees at the tidal basin were trapped.

Mention has seldom before been made in the log about the goings on it the monthly meetings, as this is usually covered so well in the minutes, but last night's meeting deserves mention not because it was so well attended and productive but because it was so interesting and fun. A presentation was made by Carolyn Reeder, author of Captain Kate, a historical novel about life on the C & O canal during the Civil War. The Club is populated by interesting people, which mixed with good food and a convivial setting, makes for more party than meeting.

Thursday -- February 15, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 43

Today we are busy with two projects on the Island. Captain John Matthews arrainged to have Arturo Fuentes come to the island to dig out a deep hole adjacent to the septic tank and septic field into which the solids which compose a thick crust in the septic tank could be shovelled out and put into to be buried and composted. Arturo shovelled the holes and the Caretaker shoveled the you-know-what... on the theory that a man should shovel what was mostly his own. The Captain has obtained two new lids for the septic tank to replace the two that were damaged when Roto-Rooter was here. It was then so cold that they were very brittle when it was attempted to remove them.

For the second project, holes will be dug around the wooden footings on the outdoor shower. Galvanized nails will be hammered into the exposed bottoms of these four-by-four posts, and then sackrete will be poured into the holes before they are covered. The nails will anchor the wooden posts into the buried concrete. The theory is to more solidly anchor the posts into the ground so that subsequent floods will not so easily pluck the smooth posts of the shower stall out of the ground. Members may recall that during one of the '96 floods the entire wooden shower assembly was washed out of the ground and down river. Fortunately, it was later found, carried back to the Island, and reinstalled.

Actually, there were three projects, as the first thing that had to be done was to bring almost a thousand pounds of sackrete onto the Island.

Friday -- February 15, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 44

The National Weather service is predicting that river stages at Little Falls will go above hazardous levels tomorrow afternoon and stay high at least through Sunday. The Island will therefore likely be closed tomorrow afternoon and on through the weekend.

Monday -- February 19, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 40

Strolling the Island this morning in below freezing temperatures it was astonishing to note the extensive plots of spring bulbs sending up green shoots. We have the first Virginia bluebells, the first daylilies, the first spring beauties, the first iris, and the first stars of Bethlehem. The last three have been up at least a week but have been unreported. And these are just those that can be identified. Upstairs in the cold big room, the potted bleeding heart is starting to green. To gardeners, if not to meteorologists, spring is now here, because the advent of the first green shoots means that everyday there will be things to check and progress to note.

Tuesday -- February 19, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.1     Water Temperature: 40

A warmish, sunny day for February, and again the most noticeable thing to report concerns the spring bulbs coming out. We now enter that time of year where the soccer balls and footballs are put up so that unseeing adolescent feet do not trample the bluebells, and others, during this early time when they are just peeking up and are so vulnerable. There is no more winter drab... areas of brilliant green abound. Come see and appreciate... but please walk carefully.

Yesterday, Club Captain John Matthews came down and installed a new locking cable for Club canoes, with the concurrence of Canoeing Supervisor David Lyles. Winter rules are thus now in effect, although just what they are is still being worked out. Until they are, the on-duty caretaker will have the key and be the final authority on when canoeing is unsafe... as will be determined by river level, water temperature, and wind velocity. Anyone with their own canoe on the Island is free from any restrictions, excepting that inner voice of common sense.

Monday -- February 26, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls:     Water Temperature:

Your Caretaker has returned from visiting his Mother in West Texas to find the Island bursting at the seams, with new growth everywhere... who says all of February is a terrible month. Going to supper with friends in Texas the Caretaker noticed a tree full of chattering and singing birds and commented, virtually in sotto to himself, "Those birds are singing up a storm." Well... the group conversation stopped abruptly and several sets of wizened eyes scanned the horizon reflexively. It was then the realization came that one person's colloquial expression might be derived from another's living experience. Clearly, some older folks with a Texas ranching background took this comment as an oft-repeated, literal observation, and quite seriously believed and expected that bird behaviour could be an indication of weather just over the horizon. One wonders if such learned skills are a generational experience that is not being passed on, as the younger ranchers are accustomed to starting their day with the weather channel and have no need or incentive to pay such close attention to the birds. Just another example of how our evolving modern culture leads to an increasing disconnect with Mother Nature.

Tuesday -- February 27, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature: 42

Today we can report our first blooming crocus. The Island is approaching that season where the lawn is covered with the new growth of spring flowering bulbs. It is becoming impossible to step anywhere without crushing some emerging Virginia bluebells. This occasions great sadness and frustration for the caretaker, who must now curtail any nighttime strolling upon the lawn. Members are surely aware that in a matter of weeks the Island will be transformed into a wildflower garden that the hand of man cannot improve upon. Just the display of bluebells is a singular enchantment to behold, and why so many Members do not avail themselves of this experience is a mystery to the Caretaker. Accordingly, Members are warned that any attempt to bring groups of any age here for the purpose of playing ball or soccer on the lawn during this fragile time will be ruthlessly prohibited.

Wednesday -- February 28, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 44`

The Club has received from the National Park Service the Final Glen Echo Park Management and Environmental Impact Statement (MP/EIS). No less than 30 days after this distribution the National Park Service (NPS) will publish a Record of Decision (ROD). The preferred plan likely to be chosen in the ROD is the Modified Public Partnership, and the next step would then be preparation of a cooperative agreement between Montgomery County and the NPS, followed by a transition plan.

The Club Fathers should monitor these goings-on that affect our important neighbor. Additional copies of the Glen Echo Park MP/EIS are available for viewing at local libraries and online at

The possible impact on access to the Island using the path going beneath the Glen Echo railroad track has already been discussed in the log on 21 September, 2000. This occasioned an e-mail response from Peter Sommerville, Vice Chair of the Glen Echo Park Foundation, on 12 December, 2000:

So far as I know the trolley right of way is still owned by the Rider's trust. There is litigation going on between the National Park Service and the trust related to encroachment onto the tracks by the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP) -(Clara Barton parkway). If at any stage it became part of the NPS it would probably be as part of the GWMP and NOT as part of Glen Echo Park. The much publicized Glen Echo funding has nothing in it for trolley trestle rehab. Traditionally GWMP has spent money closing dangerous structures rather than spending a similar amount to re-hab them. The Management Plan copy you received was as part of the good-neighbors program to keep all local "stakeholders" informed of what is happening.

Your board should keep an eye on what is happening with the acquisition of the rail-bed by the NPS in case your (valid) fears become reality.