Monday -- October 1, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.7     Water Temperature: 62

Despite the cold and overcast aspect of the day the Island is still alive with the colors of blooming flowers... especially the rose of Sharon (hibiscus syricus) that is everywhere in its white and purple. There were undaunted picnickers for lunch, who did provoke the observation that in many ways the older Members are the hardier the Members.

Tuesday -- October 2, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.7     Water Temperature: 61

The Island cats revel in the cooler weather and are now eager to patrol outside. They particularly have taken to the mulberry tree near the wooden walkway that has tilted over... making the now more horizontal trunk a perfect ramp up into a perfect perch from which to survey the lawn. The racoon and possum are still frequent visitors despite the fact that the garbage can lid is secured by a 20-pound bag of kitty litter on top. The beaver are now brazenly in evidence on any particular evening... and will make a point to approach and then splash before diving should anyone be sitting on one of the floats, but so far seem to be chewing elsewhere than Sycamore Island.

Wednesday -- October 3, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.7     Water Temperature: 62

The fish are back!! So say certain fisherpersons who are finally returning with smiles and stories. The water has cleared but still has that troubling green hue.

There has been heavy equipment on the towpath adjacent to the Island since Monday. Someone has decided to bring a large tracked side digger to remove the little island that formed in the canal where the little stream deposits the runoff from MacArthur Blvd. Many dump trucks have been loaded and taken off. The herons will be greatly disappointed as this was a favorite place for them to fish out of the canal.

Thursday -- October 4, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.7     Water Temperature: 64

Questions have been asked concerning the yellow flowers on either side of the broad pathway entrance to the Captain's float. Jane Hill has identified the large sunflower type flowers to the right as Jerusalem artichoke, grown for its nutty tasting tubers in vegetable gardens and for its beautiful flowers in flower gardens unvisited by deer. The huge and wondrous compound leaved plant to the left with its clusters of fragrant yellow flowers is in fact a Caretaker houseplant declaring to the world its happiness to be unpotted and in the sun for the summer. Identified only as a cassis, this plant started life in a small box outside the Giant supermarket a few years ago and may be recalled as a potted plant that briefly stood on the Captain's float year before last. A storm swept it into the river while staff was on vacation and the plant was retrieved only after spending a week under water. Clearly it will have to be cut back to a nub of its present size to get it in the house this winter.

FOREST FOR THE TREES, a micro-budget independent feature film about a five-day bicycling trip along Western Maryland's beautifully historic C & O Canal, will have its Washington-area premiere at the Writer's Center in Bethesda on Sunday October 7 at 10:30 am. The film's writer/director Jonathan Slade will be on hand after the screening to discuss the writing process, and what it took to translate his words into film.

Friday -- October 5, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature: 66

While National Airport has reopened, there has not been the normal resumption of the overhead air traffic. We understand the traffic pattern has been changed... but not entirely... as there does seem to be occasional airliner traffic over the river. Stay tuned.

Today is forecast to be the last day of 80-degree weather this year... and certainly we have been busy this morning right from the start. It is reassuring that there are so many smart Members out there who know the proper place to spend such a day.

Saturday -- October 6, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature: 68

The Club has received notification from the Park Service that because of the recent situations there will be an increased emphasis on security along our part of the river: "Our park closure is one half hour past sunset.  I will have a Ranger check the area at 7:30pm (after dark) on Friday and Saturday evenings and again early the following mornings.  We will maintain zero tolerance with violators."

  Club staff has also received detailed instructions on reporting procedures on "any observed incidents occurring in the area...." Accordingly, the Club Captain has now directed that the Club will close prior to the closing of the Park... and that the time of the last ferry to leave the Island be posted on the ferry sign-in sheet so that any Member of visitor coming on the Island will know in advance.

Monday -- October 8, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature: 63

During a picnic yesterday, Robert Gelb put a hook in the water baited with Irish cheddar from Sutton Place and a 24-inch, 6.5-pound catfish was pulled in. The log records this both as a record to strive for and as a comment on the upscale tastes of our spoiled Island fish.

Again, visitors to the Island have deposited their picnic garbage... not trash but food leavings... in the trash can on the screen porch. We say visitors because surely "Members" know better about carrying their trash and garbage out with them, although it must be reported that this year Members and their unsupervised guests have been very negligent in this regard. The metal can had been left on the screen porch for folks to deposit trash picked up around the Island, but so many people put food remains in it that it was taken out to give people no option but to carry their stuff up the hill. Unfortunately, the caretaker's garbage can was discovered, and treated like a garbage can at Burger King to the extent that half filled drinks have been dumped in. Errant teenagers were the first suspects... but it was pointed out that teenagers would never think to replace the 20-lb bag of kitty litter serving as a racoon deterrent that must be removed from the lid. Thus... the metal can has been returned to the screen porch in self-defence. There are two possums and two racoons regularly on the Island these days... and any time food leavings are left around we are either awakened in the middle of the night or spend the next morning picking up after heavy critter partying.

Tuesday -- October 9, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.5     Water Temperature: 61

Conversations overheard on Sycamore Island: "The trail is getting bad. It is a twisted ankle waiting to happen. And Dead Man's Curve is going to cause someone grief." And the reply "Yes... Dead Man's Curve is definitely getting worse."

What is interesting about this is that the rocky curve in the trail has apparently picked up a commonly acknowledged label... everyone present in this conversation already thought of it by the name: Dead Man's Curve.

Wednesday -- October 10, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.5     Water Temperature: 61

The Monthly Meeting will be held on the Island tonight at 8 PM.

Unusual sounds drew the Caretaker to the ferry landing yesterday afternoon where a lady was observed in the river swimming back to the towpath ferry landing with her spaniel. It turns out that the spaniel had swum to a small limb in the river that was protruding above the surface from a submerged log and had latched on with her teeth... and then was unable to detach teeth from limb. Seeing the swimming strength of the stuck and floundering spaniel start to fail... her human companion had leapt into the cold river in a heroic rescue. Club rules were bent so that the spaniel could bring her human companion to the Island for a restorative hot shower and a run in the clothes dryer for wet garb. The Caretaker was entertained immensely by these visitors provided by fate... but there was an awkward moment when an arriving Member demanded to know what a strange woman was doing wearing the bathrobe of the Caretaker's Wife.

Last weekend's anti-kudzu campaign was rained and winded out... so another attempt will be made this Saturday. Volunteers will assemble in the parking lot across from the Sycamore store at 10 AM. This is a follow-up to the effort begun in the spring... and the results from that Saturday can bee seen from MacArthur Blvd. The spring campaign was notable not only as public-spirited community project but also as a fun event. Interested citizens should call Phil Thorson at 301-229-2645. Attendance has been designated as a Sycamore Island Club work event.

Thursday -- October 11, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.5     Water Temperature: 59

Last night's monthly meeting determined that this year's fall Workfest will be on Saturday, 17 November. The rain date will be on Sunday, 18 November.

Visitors to the Island today are forewarned that last night the Caretaker twisted his ankle coming down the Clubhouse stairs with an arm full and today is unable to put any weight on it. This means that Members arriving at the towpath landing may find waiting for them not only the locked ferry but also the responsibility of substitute caretakership should they come onto the Island.

Friday -- October 12, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature: 60

It is now still dark when the Caretaker's Wife crosses the river to climb the hill to work. The familiar sounds of multitudinous geese can now be heard at this time. But they are just passing through... just unseen sounds of the changing season... for by the time the light has strengthened and the first cup of coffee prepared for a stroll in the early morning light... they have taken flight and are gone.

Monday -- October 15, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature:

It must be reported that there was no afternoon shift substitute caretaker yesterday.

Tuesday -- October 16, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.7     Water Temperature: 64

While watching migrating birds in the distance on their way south one dusk during the weekend, it was surprising to be snapped into close focus by a nearby bat. What... did this mean there were still flying insects enough to feed bats this late in the year??? Surely there are no more hatches occurring this time of year!!! Well... a moth did race by shortly afterwards... and then... lo and behold... a lightning bug could be seen as it grew dark. The south winds are keeping the early evening temps up in the comfortable 60's... things still have their late summer greens on... and despite the low river there is still enough soil moisture content to keep the Island foliage unusually lush. By mid August one expects more of a withering and parched look to Island foliage and the Island trails to be greatly widened as the plants shrink back. But not this year... and were the first leaves not on the lawn one could easily imagine a continuance of high summer.

Of course... today is probably a last high mark of the ebbing season... and all this will change with tomorrow's chilled north winds... forecast to be so strong that potential visitors to the Island should note the wind speed and may consider calling ahead to see if the ferry can be operated.

Wednesday -- October 17, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.7     Water Temperature: 62

Yesterday while working outside the Caretaker responded as soon as he heard what seemed to be a loud and clear ferry bell, but upon arriving at the towpath landing learned that the Member had been ringing for ten minutes. What was different was that the high wind had abated. Members must be mindful of the timing involving both high winds and over-flying aircraft when ringing the bell.

Today's winds are forecast to be 10-20 mph, and Members are cautioned that the ferry becomes inoperable between 15-20 mph. Notice that despite the falling air temps the river water temperature is hanging in there.

Thursday -- October 18, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.7     Water Temperature:

Yesterday afternoon the Island suffered four separate power surges that crippled the Caretaker's computer... knocked out the TV by frying the receiver... and disabled certain circuit breakers in the box. However... worse than being without computer and TV... the UV system that serves to kill bacteria in the Island's water system has been damaged... and Members are on notice that once again there is no potable drinking water on the Island and they must come prepared.

Friday -- October 19, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature: 58

We all know the drill... what it is like to be five options and five minutes inside a computerized phone answering system... hoping to reach the option that will allow one to actually speak to a human. And some of us have learned from our despair to pretend that we still have rotary dial phones and thus have the option at the beginning of the menu process to hold for an operator. Well... they are on to us... one supposes it was just a matter of time... and so, yesterday... while trying to reach Pepco about the power alternately being down and surging... and after getting 8 options deep into the automated answering system to no avail... we decided to hang up and call again and pretend rotary. But this time... after being told to wait for an operator... a computerized voice came on, gave the same menu list of options, and requested a number be spoken to select an option. Yes... spoken! There was no human voice and no getting around the system and after getting the same 8 options into the same system again by speaking numbers instead of entering them from a pulse phone... we did what any sensible person would do and hung up. Clearly, the human operators have all been fired and they do not want to talk to us unless we are truly desperate.

The Island's water purification system is back online again and the water can be imbibed safely.

Also notice how the water temperature is starting to fall.

Monday -- October 22, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature: 59

When we returned to the towpath ferry landing shortly after 5 PM, yesterday's afternoon shift substitute caretaker informed us that he was closing the Island because it was dusk. It was pointed out that sunset was not for another hour and a half, but the substitute caretaker then said he did not care as he had planned to drive to Richmond. One wondered if he been planning to leave this early all along... and if so why did he not inform someone so that an alternate substitute caretaker could be found. By this time three other couples had gotten on the ferry as this conversation took place at the towpath ferry landing, and all seemed unhappy that the substitute caretaker was leaving so early and, as they all intended to go canoeing, that they would have to manage to lock the ferry up by canoe before going out. The departing substitute caretaker was unapologetic and seemed not to feel any great responsibility about the matter. A group of five showed up a little later and were ferried over by one of the couples still preparing to canoe... but upon being told that one of their number would have to watch the ferry and could not swim, they all asked to be taken back.

At the end of the day the ferry was pointing in the proper direction, but had somehow been twisted around 360 degrees. This meant that the safety chains were crossed and twisted... and clearly someone was having a difficult time. We had never seen this before and did not know it was even possible to do this.

Tuesday -- October 23, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature: 59

The electricians were here all morning putting things right after last Wednesday's power surges disrupted several things. The UV water purification system was also checked electrically... and all is now certified to be fine.

Jim Drew saw a possible otter this weekend... or at least something that was not a beaver and had a long neck... he thinks too long a neck to have been a muskrat. Each year we have such sightings that cannot be positively confirmed... and while we all hope to be able to note the return of the river otters... so far they are still fables akin to UFO's or leprechauns.

And finally... this is a fisherpersons alert! They have been catching smallmouth and even one largemouth down here the last few days... so any fisherpersons reading this before tomorrow night's cold front causes air and water temperatures to plummet... log off immediately and rush down here.

Wednesday -- October 24, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature: 61

Ann Kip came down for a swim and reported that she was no alone in getting in a late s4eason water frolic. A young squirrel was also swimming about... either brave or silly considering the bald eagle cruising the area. Note the water temperature has risen to a cosy 61 degrees.

The cold front predicted to change our lives rolls in at midnight... but it is not the temperatures that will affect the Island tomorrow but the winds. All are warned that if the winds exceed 20 mph as forecast... the ferry will not be operational.

Thursday -- October 25, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature: 64

Yesterday was one of those golden days... swimming and fishing in late October... the Caretaker was even bitten by a mosquito. The island was accordingly busy... as Members demonstrated good sense in catching this weather whilst they could. We continue to see bats, and after all, why not if there be mosquitoes. Even this morning, with seemingly splendid temps and blue skies, with water temperatures rising even further from yesterday... were there not the technology to see future weather, one could be forgiven for all kinds of make-believe in denying the seasons. Who could guess we were on the cusp of dramatic change... unless one noticed the winds picking up out of the north and sensed the barely perceptible drop in temperature just before noon?

Monday -- October 29, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.5     Water Temperature:

The end of daylight savings time signals the change from high season to low season on the Island. Visits to the Island are no longer something one can do after work. Fortunately... there are so many retired Members or otherwise time independent folks... and the weather this week to come looks so great... that it is unlikely staff will develop "dull caretaker syndrome" until later in the season.

This is also the time of year we appreciate just how many commuters use the towpath to get downtown. Bicycles that last week went unnoticed after 5 PM are now all lit up with running lights as they pass. This year there seems to be many of them... and daily we are alert to the hardiness factor of these intrepid commuters... as in how bad does it have to get out there for their numbers to dwindle. Only ice or heavy snow seems to actually stop such commuting.

Tuesday -- October 30, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature: 53

Yesterday we received a call from Betty Burchell about yet another attempted rape near the towpath. This incident occurred near the Billy Goat Trail, and was thwarted because of passers-by and the availability of a cell phone. The fleeing suspect was actually caught... mainly because the Park Service chopper was able to respond quickly and track him from the air. By the way... said chopper was piloted by Club Member Kenny Burchell. Betty's warning is well taken... female Members on the towpath alone should be alert and are advised to have portable communication.

Notice that the water temperature has fallen by 11 degrees over the last five days.

Wednesday -- October 31, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature: 52

Grounds Supervisor Trip Reid and his successor-to-be, Anna Sofaer, met on the Island yesterday to begin the handing off procedure. It seems that again next year the Club will be blessed in the quality of its leaders. So many benefit because of the efforts of so few. There are also only a few who carry the business of the club by attending the monthly meetings. The monthly meeting on November 14 will be especially important for the future of the Club... and the Island. Please come so that the wishes of the wider Membership will be heard.