Tuesday -- September 2, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2     Water Temperature: 78

Wednesday -- September 3, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 80

This rainy, dreary weather is making it hard for me to get motivated. I have a long list of little chores I should be doing but I can't seem to get started. That's the trouble with island projects, they can always be put off for another day. Why do today what you can do tomorrow. The good thing is that I've got my computer working, with Tryon's help, and I'm writing in the daily log for the first time in a month. It was good to take a break though, to give me some new things to talk about.

This past weekend turned out to be a fantastic time down here on the Island. The rain held off on Monday and the Umpteenth Annual Regatta was a huge success. New organizers, Bill and Rochelle, did an incredible job of arranging and conducting all the competative events including a treasure hunt that put us all in canoes looking for treasure on Ruppert's Island. There was no swamped canoe, wet-rat race but the race around the island was down to the wire with determined father-daghter teams battling for the third place spot. Lots of fun and pizza and lemonade to boot!

On Sunday I hosted a small party of friends on the island and again the weather was far better than predicted. After a canoe/kayak trip down from Old Anglers Inn, we cooked burgers and frolicked in the warm river. It's so good to be able to share the island and the river with my friends and thier kids and I'll never tire of paddling the stretch of river between here and Anglers. I was proud of my daughters who both kayaked the whole way.

I saw my first ruby-crowned kinglet this year. It seems they're only around in late summer early fall. I saw a wood duck today which made me think I hadn't seen any since the spring when I would see a dozen everyday. It's strange how birds don't really have a permanent home. It's hard to say where a bird is from since they have different homes for different seasons.

Thursday -- September 4, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.9     Water Temperature: 77

It's raining and the river is rising. The island is looking like a rain forest now, with it's rich green foliage, colorful birds, and humidity, and now that the river is turning mud-brown I feel like I'm in the Amazon jungle.

It's spider season. For the uninitiated, that means you can't walk ten feet anywhere on the island without getting a spiderweb wrapped around your face. This is the time of year when you see people inexplicably waving long sticks in front of themselfs as they walk, trying to clear a path through the barrage of webs. The spiders are everywhere! We have daddy-long-legs on all the screens, we have big hairy ones with webs big enough to catch small birds, and we have tiny pin-head sized ones in every crevice and corner of the house. Doorways are a favorite place for these unlovable creatures to build their webs. I always seem to forget that little fact every morning as I walk out my front door or when I make a trip through the locker room after dark. The spiders in the canoes can be a problem if you have a daughter like mine who at the sight of one will scream so loud that you almost flip your boat. But spiders and the webs they create are beautiful and fascinating and I will always look forward to spider season.

This just in, the river is forecast to reach 5.9 feet at little falls on Friday and 6.8 on Saturday.

Friday -- September 5, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.1     Water Temperature: 73

The river rose over two feet in the last 24 hours and so the ferry is closed. What a shame for the island to be closed today and tomorrow when the weather promises to be so nice.

I have some bad news to report, there was a major sewage spill on the Potomac. On September 3rd at 9:00 p.m. the sewage treatment plant on the Antietam Creek in Hagerstown shut down and 40,000,000 gallons of raw sewage was dumped into the river. The first of the contaminated waters should reach Great Falls this afternoon. The plant is still not operating and an average of 20,000,000 gallons of sewage is being dumped into the river everyday with no prediction on when it will be fixed. As of today at noon, 36 hours later, there has still been no official press release or public safty alert, why not? Even the Park Rangers at the Great Falls Tavern knew nothing about it.

Monday -- September 8, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.3     Water Temperature: 73

Yesterday was the first Sunday that I've worked in a long time. I switched my day off to Saturday starting last week and so far I think it's going to be better. Of course now we need to change the "Sunday Relief caretakers schedule" to the "Saturday relief caretakers schedule".

I just replaced all the yokes on the club's Old Town canoes, every one of them had rotted and broken through the fastening screw.

Tuesday -- September 9, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.0     Water Temperature: 73

I woke up early on Sunday, this ragweed pollen is making it hard for me to sleep, and realized the island was completely socked in with fog. I could see the ferry, but the mainland had completely dissappeaed. I decided that this would make for a unique canoeing experience. I skipped the coffee, grabbed my paddle and headed out to the the middle of the river in the thick fog. I could see about twenty feet, so the canoeing was easy as I made my way around the head of the island and across the river toward the invisible Virginia shore. After a few minutes paddling, all my reference points were gone. I looked back and realized Sycamore Island had vanished. Suddenly, I got a very strange and eerie felling, there was no horizon, no familiar landscape, no sky overhead, just the canoe and the water immediately around it. As I sat enjoying the sensation of floating in space, a group of swallows flashed out of the fog, flitted above me and dissapeared. Two cormorants startled me when they flew low beside me without warning. The sun had now cleared the trees but its light was filtered by the fog and it sat in the sky looking like a full moon on a cloudy night. I laid back in the canoe, amazed and feeling lucky when the sight of a warning bouy shocked me out of my euphoria and I paddled back to the island.

Wednesday -- September 10, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 73

We've been advised not to swim in the river until the weekend because of the spill, but there is still no major public anouncement in this area.

There are many items that have been left on the island. At the regatta we found sunglasses and a watch with paint on it. I also found a very nice fishing vest filled with tackle and all kinds of fishing equipment. This past year I've collected backpacks, sweaters, towels, swimsuits and and other stuff. Please check the lost and found in the screen porch.

Helicopters are hovering overhead this morning, which isn't that unusual, but today they have been hovering for hours. I turned on the TV news and found out why, bad accidents on G.W. parkway, hope everyone is alright.

Thursday -- September 12, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature: 70

I received a letter from a member yesterday, it came all the way from New Mexico! She heard about my trip to Albuquerque and invited me to visit next time I'm there. It's great to be associated with such a cool outdoors club and all it's worldly members.

I think we'll be able to eat some Paw-Paws this year. I've seen quite a few of the custardy fruit along the towpath, mostly up river. It's exciting to see them, especially since there were none last year because of the drought.

The migrant warblers are starting to pass by the island, their little bodies flitting about high up in the canopy.

I'll be tracking hurricane Isabel with fingers crossed.

Monday -- September 15, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature: 70

The weather made for a slow weekend on the island, but we did have a party of fifteen college students spend the night on Saturday. I think they had a great time and it was fun to see all the tents set up on the island.

I'm so happy that the Skins are winning, it will give me something to do on those Sundays when it's not busy down here. Speaking of busy, it looks like I've got to get busy and get ready for Isabel. The latest forecast doesn't look good for our area so the flood watch is on. All able-bodied members are asked to help secure the island if the situation becomes serious.

Tuesday -- September 17, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature: 70

Judging by all the info I've gotten so far I've decided that we should prepare for a majoor flood to reach the island starting Friday night and it probably won't crest until Sunday. This means that all the canoes need to be taken out of the canoe shed, and all the furniture and appliances on the lower level of my quarters need to be moved upstairs. I've already brought in the swim float and I've started packing up all the clothes and kitchen stuff. Renee and Gerry helped me clear out the screen porch and the area under the work shed. This is a serious storm, I need your help to make sure everyone's boats are secured and that everything is ready for the flood! My plan is to be here all day on Thursday and be somewhere else by Thursday night. I will probably come back on Friday just to flip the boats (They need to be up side down until the rain stops). Please come down and help on Thursday, or ask a friend to join you, I can't do everything by myself and you can't depend on the other members to cover all the preparations.

Friday -- September 19, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 70

Isabel has come and gone, faster than we expected. It turns out that today would be a good day to visit the Island to help with any chores and preparations for the coming flood. Since the storm didn't rain heavily in the Potomac river basin, Sycamore Island may escape damaging flood waters. Still, my forecast for the next two days will be to see river levels between 8 and 12 feet.

-- Tryon Wells, Captain

Monday -- September 22, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 7.4     Water Temperature: 66

The river crested about 6 a.m. yesterday (Sunday) at 11.4 feet at the gauge at Little Falls. Today at 3:00 p.m. the river height has fallen to 7.4 feet and will probably be about 6 feet by tomorrow.

Joe has returned to the Island and reports that he has had power restored and things seem to be fine. All the canoes that were removed from their racks in the canoe shed are present and accounted for. The large tree limbs that fell on the Captain's float are apparently still on it and look to be a workfest project if they are not cleared before then.

Joe also reports that we lost a large Sycamore tree. From where I was standing on the Maryland shore, it seemed to have fallen between the wooden boardwalk and the canoe shed. No other hurricane damage was reported yet.

Joe intends to stay on the Island tonight so if you have any questions, please call him.

-- Tryon Wells, Captain

Tuesday -- September 23, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 10.1     Water Temperature: 67

A cold front moved through the region last night bringing 4.5 inches of rain locally and considerable water to the Potomac River Basin. The river level, already swollen with Hurricane Isabel's wet payload, surged back up to 10.1 feet at Little Falls at the crest of the mini-flood around noon today. The forecast for the next few days are for clear weather, which may allow the Potomac to settle back to more normal water levels.

The heavy rains also brought down more trees. Of interest to club members, a large dead tree below the path, just upstream of the canal bridge, came down on the power line to Sycamore Island and into the canal. The brand new telephone pole (erected less than a month ago) snapped and lies across the towpath and the canal. The new telephone pole on the Island is also damaged and bent over. The Park Police spent much of the day on the towpath, shooing away club members and curious onlookers, and have put up a temporary fence blocking access to our ferry landing from the bridge. The power line going over to Sycamore Island is in the river and quite possibly may snag debris unless it is cut away soon. You can see pictures here.

On just this last Saturday evening, our caretaker Joe Hage tells the tale of coming down the path and being only a few feet ahead of a huge limb that came crashing down behind him on the path before disappearing down the hill into the undergrowth. He said the noise "scared him to death." Unfortunately, despite the tops of three trees on or near the path crashing down the hill this week, a quick survey of some of the remaining trees near the path reveal 2 other completely dead trees (you know the one on the path we have to walk around -- it's dead) and 2 other huge trees with only a few live limbs left. It may be worth our while to control the falls of several of these trees before an unthinkable tragedy occurs.

-- Tryon Wells, Captain

Friday -- September 26, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.3     Water Temperature: 66

PEPCO hasn't repaired the power poles or power to the Island yet. Joe expects to take a generator down to the Island today to provide a little power to his quarters. The power pole that fell across the towpath and canal Monday night has now been moved off the towpath and cordoned off with yellow warning tape. Access to the ferry landing is now clear.

Joe is looking for volunteers this weekend to help him put the canoes back on their racks. Sunday is the day of choice, 10:00 a.m. Many hands make light work.

-- Tryon Wells, Captain