Tuesday -- February 4, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5 Water Temperature: 33
If you're a ferryman on the potomac river in the middle of winter, sooner or later you're going to have to learn how to break ice and that's exactly what I did yesterday. With some help from Mother Nature I managed to free the ferry from the ice. The ferry is operating again and things are back to normal after the January deep-freeze. No more ice skating, for the time being, but the river is emerald-green and crystal clear. I was surprised at how quickly the river ice melted. Today there is but a trace of ice holding on to the northern banks.
The climate of an ecosystem greatly affects the behavior of the animals living there. The freezing of the river created some obvious examples of this. I noticed that the Kingfisher was forced to do it's fishing out in the main channel of the river. Normally it does it's hunting along the canal or the smaller channels of the river. Now if the entire river froze the Kingfisher would be forced to migrate to a warmer climate. The canada geese were also forced to change their habits and had to leave the island to find their food source in open waters. There's been an increase in the number of Bald Eagles I've seen and I atribute that to the weather as well.
Wednesday -- February 5, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5 Water Temperature: 33
The wind has died down and the sun is shining. I think I'll make time for a little canoeing today.
Thursday -- February 6, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6 Water Temperature: 35
This may be hard to descibe but tiny ice cubes were formed by the action of the wind and the melting ice sheet. Hudreds of these tiny icecubes collected along the edge of the receding ice sheet and as the waves moved them up and down they made the most wonderful sound. The sound of ice in a crystal glass mutiplied a thousand times. It reminded me of high pitched chimes or the sound of houndreds of tiny birds chirping.
Friday -- February 7, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5 Water Temperature: 35
Six inches of snow, another no-school day. There seems to be less excitement about this storm than the one we had in December. The towpath is not nearly as busy as it was after that first snow of the season.
This time I made sure to shovel the snow from the bridge and the steps. If you let them thaw and freeze those tall steps can get dangerous.
Last night as I made my way down the path to the ferry I noticed that the only other tracks in the snow were those of a fox. It's cool to think that the most frequent traveler on this trail besides myself is the resident fox.
Monday -- February 10, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.4 Water Temperature: 35
Yesterday the relief caretakers built two snow people sitting in a snow canoe, wearing PFD's of course, it's very cute.
Today I brought my groceries down to the island on a sled, there are actually some advantages to having a snow covered trail.
Tuesday -- February 11, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.4 Water Temperature: 34
Winter is not a completely dormant period for the plants and animals on the island. The cycles of life continue and everything is in constant change preparing for the next phase. To us the seasons are defined with a clear beginning and end but these bounderies are less defined in the natural world to the point of nonexistance.
Wednesday -- February 12, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.4 Water Temperature: 33
There were two Black Vultures on the island yesterday. They were perched at the head of the island as I ferried across yesterday afternoon.
This week I put a door up for the men's locker room and did some other rearranging and cleaning in there. Big inprovement, but then again, anything I do in there is going to be an improvement, it would be hard to make it any worse than it was.
Thursday -- February 20, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0 Water Temperature: 33
I'm back. I guess I haven't been inspired to write lately. Sometimes there just isn't anything very interesting to write about and I can't see boring you all with mundane things like how much goose poop is on the captains float or how many saplings the beaver had eaten the night before. Of course this week has not been ordinary and I'm sure there was plenty to write about but somehow with the kids home all week I've been distracted from my daily log duties.
Life on the island during a snow storm is not much different from what all of you must have experienced. We've enjoyed the beauty and we've had fun sledding and slideing. And like you we've strained our backs moving snow.
Sunday morning, after the first ten inches of snow fell, I awoke to find the river white with snow, well more like slush. The first thing I need to do is find out if I can pull the ferry across. Looking out over the water I notice the most mysterious tracks in the slush leading away from the ferry to the opposite shore. The river is the consistancy of a Slurpy, no where near solid enough to support the weight of an animal, but there were the tracks just the same. I pondered this as I began to laborously pull the ferry through the thick slush when suddenly the mystery was solved. An American Coot came walking on top of the slush from the other side. It seemed like it was trying to find open water and was unafraid to come right up to the ferry and jumped into the path of open water I was creating with the ferry. It was so cool to be out in the hush of a snow covered morning and have this close interaction with nature.
Friday -- February 21, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6 Water Temperature: 32
Today I'm working on getting the ferry free from the ice. After five days of being iced in the ice is now soft enough for me to break the ferry free. This is not an easy job but it is well worth it. The way the river is now the ice is too soft to pull a canoe since the boat will break through and it becomes very difficult to get back on top of the ice just to have it break through again. I just spent the last hour breaking ice to get the ferry across and I'm still not even halfway .
Soon enough though the ice will be the least of my worries. The weather service is predicting warm weather and rain and they anticipate flooding. It doesn't look like it will be as bad as in '96 (thankfully) but I'm watching closely and getting prepared.
The night before last as the last rays of the sunset were fading away I was thrilled to see the siloette of a fox way out in the middle of the river between MD and VA. It gave me a real feeling of wilderness as I watched the fox running across the river. It was as if we were far away in Alaska, somewhere on the frozen tundra.
Given the forecast for the river I'm guessing that the ferry will be closed for the next few days so I advise calling before you come down.
Saturday -- February 22, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.9 Water Temperature: 32
The weather service called me yesterday which I thought was nice. How does that work? Do they have some kind of master list of all the crazy people that live in the flood plain? They called to tell me that they predict the river to crest on Monday evening at about eleven feet at the Little Falls gauge. So it looks like I'll be able to wait this one out and not have to leave the island.
Sunday -- February 23, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.8 Water Temperature: 33
The forecast for the river has changed. The river is now supposed to crest at 9.5 feet rather than eleven feet and that won't be until Tuesday morning instead of Monday night. I admit I'm a little relieved and happy I don't have to empty the conoe shed. The kids and I won't be here for the next two nights just to make it easier and safer to get to school. The high water combined with these high winds should make it extremely hard to ferry or even canoe across the slough.
The Island, of course, will be closed for most of the week while we wait for the levels to go back down.
Monday -- February 24, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 7.9 Water Temperature: 32
Thankfully it doesn't look like we're going to get a flood after all. The river is high, but no emergency so we're breathing a sigh of relief down here.
Not that I'm going to do anything risky like the last time we had high water but I feel like I've perfected the method of getting the ferry across in high water. It's comforting to know it can be done in case of emergency.
I love living on the Island, you don't have to go and look for adventure, on the island the adventure comes to you.
Tuesday -- February 25, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 9.0 Water Temperature: 32
The river has crested. At about 6:00 this morning the high water crested at 9.2 feet at the little falls gauge. Somehow we were spared the hassle of a flood, for now. Considering the amount of snow falling in the mountains this winter we could be in for a high-water spring. The river should be back to safe levels (5ft) by this weekend.
Wednesday -- February 26, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 7.5 Water Temperature: 33
High water, ice, mud and snow. No visitors today.
Thursday -- February 27, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.6 Water Temperature: 34
Once in the breath of an ocean
I saw the moon motion away.
Through the trees I followed,
on a cliff at the edge of the day.
My heart soon filled with wonder
and the questions exploded inside.
Gravity controlled my emotions
the moon my primitive mind.
Volcanoes and distant heavens
charged by a grain of sand.
What makes up the earth is in me
and part of the earth I am
Friday -- February 28, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.8 Water Temperature: 36
The receding river has left us an interesting landscape. The river has sculpted the ice and snow leaving ridges and very slick frozen puddles and half frozen mud. The recent snow has covered everything making it difficult to know where to walk.
I think I saw mink tracks on the island.