APRIL 2001

Monday -- April 2, 2001 -- The Club is CLOSED
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.0     Water Temperature: 43

Now imagine that it is Sunday... the Island is flooding so the Island is closed... like having the drawbridge up and feeling secured by a natural moat whose water temperature is 43 degrees. You have just had your first bite of lunch and are thinking how safe isolation can feel... when there is a knock at the door. This occasions what one calls an adrenalin spike! A young couple had returned a Member's canoe to the Island, heedless of the high river, and were now asking how to get back. Stories like this get put in the log not because of the startlement of staff... but because it is only one week since the body of a dead kayaker was found floating downriver... still clad in helmet and skirt but dead of hypothermia... and the Club Fathers understandably are requiring conscientious reporting.

Tuesday -- April 3, 2001 -- The Club is CLOSED
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.6     Water Temperature: 46

Fishing guru George Malusky let drop a gem the other day when he noted that the shad would not start running until the water temperature reaches 53 degrees. Fisherpersons are reminded that the temperature given in the Log is taken from the Little Falls gauge where the new fish ladder is, and so should be accurate for the water temp there. But something must be out there because the river is now covered with diving and fishing cormorants.

Star Mitchell has called to say that the Annual Whitewater Downriver Race will be held on Saturday, 9 June. The endpoint of the race is Sycamore Island, where there is daylong frivolity. All Islanders with a fondness for canoeing should consider entering... and all Islanders, including waiting list folks, should consider the event a perfect reason to be on the Island.

Wednesday -- April 4, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.4     Water Temperature: 49

Your caretaker has decided upon the subject of his presentation to the annual Caretaker's Convention. Of course, all such staff has, by job description, intimate knowledge of all on-site porcelain, and only at such an event can esoteric trivia of such arcania be shared and appreciated. Sycamore Island has antique porcelain from the art deco period, and surely the slide presentation being prepared for the convention will be a showstopper. It is in the spring when such appreciation runs high... when every square inch is lovingly caressed with pine-sol after being ignored all winter. But Members who are also aficionados are urged to come appreciate early in the year, before high traffic causes frequent use to outpace the loving caresses.

The National Weather Service predicts the river will fall below hazardous stages at Little Falls this evening.

Thursday -- April 5, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.1     Water Temperature: 50

You will note the river has not fallen below the hazardous stage as predicted by the National Weather Service... but they do predict now that it will happen tonight. Also note that the water temperature has reached 50 degrees for the first time this year.

Well folks... we have good news and bad news...! The good news is that we have seen the first blooming trout lily, first blooming violets, and first bumblebee. Already the Dutchman's breeches, narcissi, daffodils, bluebells, periwinkle, and spring beauties are blooming. The bad news is that we have seen our first mosquitoes... notice the plural!

Yesterday David Winer counted over 200 cormorants flying up-river towards Ruppert's Island. It's that time of year... two ducks ignored the ferry as it docked only feet away as they cavorted shamelessly in the water. Had little children been on board... we would have had to avert their eyes.

Friday -- April 6, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.8     Water Temperature: 53

The Captain has determined, in consultation with the Club President, that the Club canoes will remain locked up this weekend and will not be made available for use during the scheduled river cleanup. The Club President reports that Fletcher's Boathouse does not allow their boats to be rented and taken on the water until the water temperature reaches 60 degrees.

Yesterday was the first run-around-the-Island-with-short-sleeves day. People have been running on the towpath in shorts for some time... but yesterday was also the first day we did not think them crazy. The houseplants came outside and are on the steps to the Clubhouse during this transition time so that they can be quickly be moved indoors. Later they will be moved around to the Caretaker's garden area. Anyone visiting the Island should make a point to check out the massively beautiful potted bleeding heart.

Monday -- April 9, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 56

If you are reading this and it is still Monday... log off immediately and rush down here. It is glorious. We have declared the first caretaker-in-shorts day. It is also the first day of large groups swimming at the rope swing tree... pretty reckless considering the river is less than half a foot under the officially hazardous status and the water temp is only 56 degrees.

Tuesday -- April 10, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.6     Water Temperature: 60

Yesterday saw our first swimmers of the year... Garret Rasmussen and son Rob came down to plunge their bodies into the 56 degree water. The verdict??? "Invigorating" was the comment.

The log should note the activity at the illegal rope swing if only because of the sheer size of the numbers. Over a hundred youngsters visited the rope swing yesterday... there was constant coming and going on the towpath. The drinking parties will not start until the night time temperatures get higher, and last year's instances of vandalism and canoe theft did not begin until later in the year, but Members should be vigilant in reporting strangers swimming to the Island.

The river is rising and is forecast to reach the hazardous stage here Wednesday night.

Wednesday -- April 11, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.8     Water Temperature: not given

Look for the violets lining the walkway... and everywhere else on the Island. Never have we seen so many trout lilies... or so many in bloom. On the Island we have the traditional blue periwinkle, or creeping myrtle. But have you ever noticed that near the ferry landing at the towpath there is a white variety?

Now should be the time to make our way down to catch the peak performance of the bluebells... but in fact the Island is likely to be closed tomorrow through Saturday because of the rising water. Stay tuned.

Thursday -- April 12, 2001 -- The Club is CLOSED
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.1     Water Temperature: 58

The island is closed and the national Weather Service predicts the river will stay at hazardous levels at least through Saturday. Friday -- April 13, 2001 -- The Club is CLOSED
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.4     Water Temperature: 59

The other day we got this cute message from Trip Reid:

I imagine you already have this, but I read that on 3/1 the National Capitol Region Communication Center (NCRCC) launched a toll free 24-hour emergency hotline that services the C & O Canal National Park (& four other local national parks).  The # is (866) 677-6677.  Hope this doesn't leave you at 6s and 7s.

Well... yesterday afternoon two zodiac rescue boats from the Glen Echo Fire Department river rescue squad motored by the Island and went down to the dam and fooled around. This seemed the perfect reason to try the new hotline number. An Officer Williams answered and we learned that 1) this is the number that ordinarily we would call to report trouble because they, the Park Service, handle all calls outside of the District line, but, 2) we should continue to call Park Police dispatch because right now this Park Service office is woefully undermanned. They do wish to be called first for river rescue incidents... but were in fact unaware of why any river rescue squad was on the river.

Saturday -- April 14, 2001 -- The Club is CLOSED
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.4     Water Temperature: 59

The mayapples are blooming, as are the stars of Bethlehem. As one steps off of the pedestrian overpass on the way to the Island there is a remarkably fragrant bush on the right, and it is hard to imagine anyone coming that way and not pausing to inhale.

What is not good news is that the insects have appeared in legion, benefiting from the wet spring. The mosquitoes have actually swarmed near the ferry landing... so come prepared.

The Island will be closed tomorrow because of the high water, but should reopen on Monday.

Midday a couple could be seen beside the towpath harvesting something into a large paper bag. Our first thought was that it was mushrooms because whatever it was seemed too small to identify. A Park Police cruiser stopped and the Officer spoke to the couple. They were allowed to keep what was in the bag but were obviously asked to leave. A group of 7 Latinos sitting about 30 feet away took note of this conversation, stashed something in the bushes, and also left.

An hour or so later another man was observed acting suspiciously near the towpath. It was so obvious with skulking and over-the-shoulder-looking. Finally, he could be seen plucking up bluebells and stuffing them in his backpack. So Members... take note... that what others wish to enjoy at great risk you need only ring the bell for.

Monday -- April 16, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.1     Water Temperature: 59

This being a log it must be reported that on 13 Apr when the gauge at Little Falls was 6.2 the ferry sustained very minor damage when docking at the towpath ferry landing. Repairs have already been effected. Fortunately it was mere happenstance and at no time dangerous, but nonetheless a reminder of the fragility of the ferry and the power of the river and should be marked as a lesson for future caretakers.

River levels are officially hazardous and rising slowly, but the bluebells and other wildflowers are so stunning that we will try to keep the ferry running until Tuesday evening. In these situations it is always a good idea to call first to make sure.

Since the Alison Thresher disappearance from the nearby towpath the Caretaker's Wife carries a 2-way radio when travelling between the Island and the car. The Island radio is kept on in her absence. It was surprising when the radio came to life at approximately 1245 hrs... surprising mainly because the conversation was in Chinese... and by definition... very near by. The timing on this is so incredible it can only be a joke of the Gods.

Then... at 1345 hrs a large, official looking, black helicopter with lots of antenna came cruising casually by at tree-top level. The imagination is a wonderful thing.

Tuesday -- April 17, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2     Water Temperature: 57

What a difference a week makes!! Virginia is disappearing behind a soft green wall of leaf and the hill path down to the Island is known less and less visually and more and more audibly. Suddenly, insects are everywhere... and we begin to hear the distant sounds of fish jumping.

Visitors be forewarned... the Caretaker's stick of "after bite" has been taken out of winter storage and now occupies its ritualistic place where it can be easily apprehended and appreciated.

There is a goose nest under the large tree trunk to the right just as one enters the path to the lower end of the Island. The nest had two eggs in it on Saturday but is now empty... and with no sign of broken shells. Someone had a good meal after carrying them off. Petey the possum maybe? Surely the black snakes are not moving around this early. Come to think of it... the cats have seemed kind of skitsey the last two nights... maybe there is another large predator on the Island.

Last night at dusk a very large flock of sea gulls could be seen circling the river just up from the fish ladder. It looked just like something one would see on National Geographic when gulls are in a feeding frenzy above a school of fish. This could be good news and bad news for our fisher persons... the ladder is working and something is getting up... but what is getting up is feeding waterfowl and not swallowing hooks. And then... anything getting past the gulls then has to brave over a hundred cormorants at Ruppert's Island.

Wednesday -- April 18, 2001 -- The Club is CLOSED
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.65     Water Temperature: not given

The Island had to be closed yesterday afternoon because of both rising water and rising wind.

The Island is closed today primarily because of the high water... but would be closed in any event by the high winds... which are sustained above 20 mph. It was tricky enough crossing at 0610 hrs when the Caretaker's Wife left for work and the winds have picked up since. Members are reminded that high winds can render the ferry inoperable just as high water or ice can. Sometimes you just cannot get here from there.

A Member has finally read the Log online. One might think this would be cause for staff celebration... but instead it is reason for HUGE embarrassment. We know the Log was read because... and we would never confess this except the purpose and nature of a Log require it... Jeff Komarow noted in 12 April e-mail:

Your current daily entries to the log all are dated 2000. I think it's time to come into the 21st Century ......LOL

So... to the two of you and the Caretaker's Mother who are the semi-regular readers of the Log... shame on us all. Men have felt obliged to fall on their swords for lesser incompetencies. The "lots of luck" surely refers to Jeff's appreciation of the gargantuan task of re-editing over three months of Log entries.

And so... since we are doing Log housekeeping... today's Log must note two paragraphs appended to Saturday, 14 April.

Thursday -- April 19, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2     Water Temperature: 52

The goose nesting in the tree root ball near the Captain's float has been out of her nest a lot lately, so the nest was inspected and only broken shell was found. This is the second nest on the Island to be plundered this season. There have been many "cries in the night" on the Island lately... often heralding that somewhere life has become dinner.

Our lucky Island kitties listen unafraid to these goings on from the security of the screen porch... content to salivate only at the sound of a can opener. What a metaphor for our safe, soft, comfortable, smug, American culture. On most of the rest of the planet even the human animals listen fearfully in lawless urban jungles for "cries in the night". God Bless America!

Friday -- April 20, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.8     Water Temperature: 53

This is the weekend to be on the Island to catch the peak of the bluebells... with a supporting cast of flowering trout lilies, Dutchman's breeches, violets, star of Bethlehem, marsh marigolds, bleeding hearts, creeping myrtle, dog toothed violets, etc. Because the geese are doing such a good job of cropping the grass... the Island looks like a wildflower garden growing out of a putting green. The bluebells are of such a height that one can sit on the lawn... seemingly alone... and be constantly surprised by slender goose necks rising from the bluebells... looking around... and then disappearing amidst the blue. Like some Saturday morning cartoon.

Members are reminded that the Club orientation is tomorrow... that the Island may be crowded from 1000 hrs... and that if the water temperature does not rise above 55 degrees the Club canoes will still be locked up.

Saturday -- April 21, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.7     Water Temperature: 53

Today is Club Orientation Day!!

Everyone on the waiting list was invited to attend an orientation that commenced at 1000 hrs and was conducted by Jeff Komarow's committee of Tryon Wells, Tove Elfstrom, George Malusky, and Jane Winer. A Caretaker's Tour of the Island was part of the process. Departing attendees were vocal in their opinions that such an orientation was a great idea and that this program in particular was well done. Especially appreciated seemed to be the mass of specific and practical information about the Club and about using the Island that, left to their own devices, might take new Members years to stumble across. The responsibilities of Membership were made clear and basic rules were covered. The committee provided several written handouts and these will be incorporated in the Red Book upstairs and thus available to everyone. Certainly it is the opinion of this observer that those Members who have been concerned regarding the transmission of Club traditions and heritage would have been well pleased.

Upon arriving at the ferry attendees were asked if they would attend the lunch following, and the count was called to George Malusky who then brought down things to be grilled and other luncheon goodies. He also brought down half of a huge cooler filled with soft drinks. A special mention in the dispatches to Shelley Malusky, who brought down the other half of the heavy cooler... as well as two sets of young twins... and then labored without pause behind the scenes to bring off the lunch. The committee may have been thinking only as far as a cheap 50-pack of frozen patties... but from Shelley they got hand made burgers.

Monday -- April 23, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.3     Water Temperature: 58

Note the water temperature... the Club canoes are unlocked.

The first goslings are here... a family with five... probably visiting from Ruppert's to introduce the kids to Sycamore Island grass. Again this year there will be a great overlap in the timing of gosling production. For instance, there is a brand new nest at the foot of the massive maple tree at the corner of the deck... just a couple of feet from the most heavily trafficked path on the Island. It will be at least two weeks before any surviving eggs hatch. We may attempt to rope off the immediate area to protect her from unsupervised children and thoughtless adults.

There are even more gulls... even former Caretakers Peter and Holly have noted the largeness and seasonal lateness of the flocks of seagulls in the river near the Island. Maria Stensel has reported after kayaking that the swirling clouds of gulls seen from the Island seem to be feeding on large hatches of flying insects. Remember, many insects over winter at the bottoms of ponds, lakes, and rivers... and are emerging now.

Tuesday -- April 24, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.3     Water Temperature: 63

With this heat one might think spring had come and gone... were it not for duck frolic. The ducks are cavorting... all the time... loudly. The sounds of duck frolic are unique and unmistakable. Yesterday in the early evening one could feel honoured to sit and listen... as though being allowed to participate in one of the Mysteries of Life. But by midnight it was beginning to be a bit much. Ducks are obviously master cavorters of some endurance... after all... it is over a month since this log reported flagrant and mindless and obscene duck cavorting in public daylight as a ferry full of people docked. We live in a part of town where the neighbors are not quiet about "doing it".

Notice how quickly the water temperature in the river is rising... 10 degrees in just three days.

When you come to the Workfest this Saturday, one of the things to note on the Island is the debris-defined high water line that skirts the Island. To the Caretaker it is especially noticeable this year because in the last two years it has not been seen at all... a reminder that the last two years the river has been quiet and low. Hopefully we are past the worst of any seasonal high water, as the emerging leafy green will suck rainwater out of the ground before it can run off and overflow banks.

Grounds Supervisor Trip Reid brought and planted about a dozen dogwood trees around the Island. He had obtained these from the Potomac Conservancy during last weekend's participation in that organization's Earth Day activities. Trip is in negotiation with them to take responsibility for a large number of potted sycamore trees, of which number we would be allowed to keep a percentage. One sees what looks like sycamore trees in urban plantings, but they are in fact usually plane trees... not quite the same as we would wish to restore our own natural namesake... and we are lucky to have access to "real" sycamore trees.

Wednesday -- April 25, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.1     Water Temperature: 62

Someone recently made us a gift of some "Old Doc's Squirrel Repellent" to see if it would deter our Oliver, the squirrel who always wants more, from our feeder. I mean... with a name like that we gotta try it. And we did... but Oliver seemed not to mind chomping away on copious amounts of sunflower seeds while his nose was about 6 inches away from "Old Doc". In fact, he did not mind for about 15 minutes. Such a disappointment!

Early each morning when taking the Caretaker's Wife across on the ferry we are amazed to find the ferry rope covered with mosquitoes. It is as though they have just hatched and are drying their wings in the dawn, because as a gloved hand is slid along the rope deliberately, only about half have the wit to escape crushing by flying away. Tromping around the island yesterday with Trip during the tree planting exercise it was hard not to notice the clouds of mosquitoes we disturbed everywhere, but amazingly, not one bite resulted. Members are warned that this year will be difficult if the birds and bats do not lower the mosquito census before they enter their pubescent adolescence and need our blood to make baby mosquitoes.

Thursday -- April 26, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.0     Water Temperature: 60

We were awakened at 2344 hrs by the sound of the ferry bell ringing. It was an unwelcome reminder that the warm season is beginning and all that this entails regarding the many ruffians that populate the towpath at night. It means that with the water temperature rising, the locking of the doors has to go back on the evening checklist because of trespassers swimming to the island again at night. It gives one pause to remember we are down here by ourselves and cannot expect any cavalry to rescue us quickly... even if they knew where we are.

The Island phlox is starting to bloom... as is lots of what looks to be yellow tickseed... which needs confirmation because the books say it should not bloom until July. It was heartening to see the first bats hunting over the river, especially with the exploding mosquito population. Yesterday we had to go to the Post Office to receive delivery of the new martin house authorized by the Grounds Supervisor... and hopefully we are not too late in the season for it to be found by eager occupants. It will be installed this Saturday at the Workfest.

At the towpath landing there is a huge dead carp floating for the third day... mostly submerged so it does not smell yet. The carp are definitely the largest fish we see in the river... and while only a fisherperson would be qualified to guess its weight, it seems well over two feet long.

We were surprised to notice while coming across the iron bridge over the canal that the paw paw trees near the river are covered with blossoms. Covered... and in the last several years there have been so few flowers and relatively little fruit, so it is interesting to conjecture what might be different this year. Or perhaps one should say... what is right this year.

Friday -- April 27, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.9     Water Temperature: 60

Although the bluebells have peaked... the exciting news to report is the great number of babies or first year plants that are still coming on and may yet bloom. Bluebells, trout lilies, violets, Soloman's seal, and especially the rare Dutchman's breeches have multiplied incredibly... although being perennials they will not be in their glory until next year. This is a direct result of not mowing the lawn until after the wildflowers have set seed... and we ask the Member's indulgence again this year.

Trip Reid reports from the Potomac Conservancy that the dogwoods we obtained from them are "silky dogwood" and that from surfing he has learned that these are actually "shrubs, dense, 1 to 3 meters high, and grow in wetlands & along stream banks, etc."

Saturday -- April 28, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature:

There were 90 people signed in for today's Spring Workfest. The task list ran to two pages... yet almost everything was accomplished. There were simply too many outstanding contributions deserving of mention in the dispatches to be enumerated here. This means the Club deserves a special unit citation for its performance as a group enterprise. Members... you were awesome... take a bow.

Monday -- April 30, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 62

Your caretaker was still moving pretty slowly this second morning after the Workfest... and hopes those of you that awoke to life and jobs in the real world fare better. Random thoughts of amazement include the realization that all accumulated trash near the ferry landing disappeared up the hill... the goose nesting beneath the huge maple tree near the Clubhouse survived the hordes of humans... we are still discovering neat things that got done that were not on the Workfest list... and things on the list that were done very neatly... and finally... Island expert Jessie Bakeman arrived in the afternoon and was entrusted to tour the Island to make a report on things missed or yet required to pronounce the Island ready for the season. Her written report was very sparse... a complement to those of you who worked so hard Saturday.