JULY 2006

Thursday -- July 6, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 77

So much has happened since my last entry back on June 23 that I don't know where to begin.

First, I feel very fortunate that the Island was not completely washed away by the recent rains and my heart goes out to those who weren't as lucky. I was sure that I would have to cut my vacation short and rush back to the Island to rescue my things but the river gods were smiling on me and I was able to stay in Bethany (where it wasn't even raining). The Island is still very muddy but back to normal except that the swim float is still 100 yards downstream from the Island. It must have drifted there with the flood waters and I think it would have gone over the dam if were not for the heroics of Tryon Wells, Dave Winer and substitute caretaker Dominique Maggio.

I'm happy to report that our young eagle has ventured from the nest and can be spotted perched nearby. I guess it's not quite ready to go solo yet. Unfortunately, I think the other young eagle has perished since I haven't seen it for many weeks. It's likely that it was pushed out of the nest by it's larger sibling.

The roof above the club kitchen has gone bad and I pulled two very wet and ant-infested planks down from the ceiling. John Matthews and son were down to assess the damage and it looks like the roof will need to be replaced.

This past weekend was pretty slow but we did have ten canoes venturing onto the river just at sunset on Tuesday to watch the fireworks. It was so much fun paddling in the moonlight and we weren't disappointed by the fireworks either, what a show!

Friday -- July 7, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.9     Water Temperature: 77

I noticed last night that we lost a big black walnut tree. It must have fallen during that first wave of heavy rainfall we had two weeks ago. It damaged some other trees too when it's 70' mass crashed down, adding to the wall of debris at the head of the island.

The heavy rains also eroded much of the top soil on the island and now the bulbs of the blue bells can be seen poking out of the washed out hillsides. The rain also carved out miniature canyons, and little mesa were created where ever there was a pebble or a bottle cap keeping the dirt from washing away. Some of these stone caught my eye and after examining them I think they may be chips from making arrow heads. I like to think that theses recent rains have revealed some ancient native artifacts.

Saturday -- July 8, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature: 77

Sunday -- July 9, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature: 78

The river-level gauge at little falls is still not working but lucky for us I have my own gauge here on the island. I put nails in one of the dock posts to match the readings at little falls. I have one at three feet, one at four feet and one at five feet. One day I'll paint lines on the post and I plan to paint a gauge on the steps too, someday.

I saw our "baby" eagle on the wing! It was flapping and soaring up and down the river close to the nest. It then got a taste of life outside the nest when an aggressive osprey appeared to harass it. Our young eagle has also become very vocal and can be heard crying clear across the river. It seems like it's crying for food like any other hatcheling might but I wonder if the adults are trying to encourage it to leave the nest.

Tryon and I went out to rescue the swim float on Friday. These kinds of projects are never straight forward and always require a bit of creativity and a lot of back work. Tryon arrived with 200 feet of rope and after gather the necessary tool, among them my climbing assender for gripping the rope, we paddle out to the wayward float. Our plan was not to get the float back in position but to merely free the anchor and get it to safe harbor. There was a very impressive length of rope holding the float to a tree on the island and of course this rope was a magnet for large trees and debris making our task that much more challenging. After convincing Tryon that the anchor was indeed stuck we planned to secure a new line to the Maryland shore and then cut to other line in the hopes that this would free the anchor. The wind was blowing pretty hard down river and Tryon had a tough time starting off with his 200 foot line. The wind died briefly and Tryon got close to the shore, but he was still thirty feet from the closest tree. Then the back work started. I cut the old line and sent the float adrift and, while Tryon feverishly paddle toward the shore, I began to pull on the anchor rope. Whatever we did seemed to help because I was able to gather in a lot of anchor line and, with all my might, I held the anchor off the river bottom while Tryon towed us in. Tryon finally reached the trashy shore and with a groan I dropped the anchor. It was inspirational the way Tryon fearlessly stepped off the boat into the thick, wet and smelly mud to reach a tree on the bank. Now that our anchor was free our next task was to retrieve the other rope, the one with the snag of trees stuck to it. It took some time but we managed to free the rope and then, once again, Tryon heroically braved the mud to refasten the rope on the Island so that it would reach the float. Once we had a new line from the Island to the float we cut the line to the mainland, hoisted anchor, and pulled the float up close to the Island. We tried unsuccessfully to get the float on board and decided to wait until we had more help to get the swim float back to it's proper place. It might not sound like a lot of work but it took the two of us over three hours to accomplish.

Monday -- July 10, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature: 78

The Little Falls gauge still isn't working but David Winer pointed out to me that the NOAA "Advanced hydrological Predictions" site does give an accurate reading of the river level, thanks Dave.

The swim float is now back in it's proper place thanks to the hard work of a few devoted members. Tryon wells, Bruce Gaber, Mac Thorton, Andre Thorton, John Membrino and Myself gathered on the island yesterday at about noon and went to work. I put on my waders and did my part by holding the float from the shore while the five of them manned canoes. It was no simple job and I'm sure it was entertaining to watch us as we slopped through the mud on the bank trying to keep the float from getting snagged. Tove and Susan Elfstrom also showed up in time to take picture and add some crucial assistance. Happily the wind was blowing up river and a lot of muscle power was all we needed to get the swim float operational again, well almost, I still need to attach the ladder. Thanks to everyone who helped and to those that wanted to help but couldn't make it.

Tuesday -- July 11, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature: 78

I just met long-time member Joe O'boyle. Joe is a plumber and he very generously offered to help me fix the outdoor shower. I visited him at his home on Iroquois Road that he built, with help from John Matthews, back in 1953. I found him in his surprisingly large back yard where he had two sheds full of plumbing parts and a kennel for his award-winning beagles. It was great to hear him talk about the way the area has changed as he patiently fiddled with our broken faucet. His was one of the first houses in the area and back in '53 when he moved in there was still a working truck farm next door. He said he had to put up a fence to keep the chickens out of his wife's flowers. He also told me about a log cabin that used to be at the end of the street. I watched as his nearly crippled but expert hands loosened the rusty fittings and replaced the worn out parts, stopping occasionally to spit tobacco. I found out that his wife, Pauline, is bedridden but Joe still takes on some plumbing work even with his two replaced shoulders and one replaced knee. I'll have to find more plumbing work for him to help me with so I can hear some more of his old-timer stories.

Thursday -- July 13, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 79

No more word on Cabin John Creek.

I've been busy cutting grass and trimming trees, that rain we had has everything growing like mad.

Friday -- July 14, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 80

The Potomac Whitewater Festival is this weekend up at Great Falls. It's a fund raiser for a great organization, American Whitewater. They do a lot of advocacy work on behalf of American rivers and they promote river recreation, but I still think that anyone who goes over the falls on purpose is crazy.

Saturday -- July 15, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 80

I was waiting for the light at the old arch bridge when I noticed a backhoe and stacks of new sewer pipes on the hill above Cabin John Creek. I'm guessing that the sewer line broke and now they are replacing it. I was told that the leak was stopped but I wonder where the waste is going now.

Monday -- July 17, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 85

I found out that I could park my car over night at Great Falls Tavern so I drove up there around eleven o'clock Saturday morning, parked my car and started walking upstream along the towpath. My plan was to hike to mile post 27 where I would spend the night at the Hiker/Biker campsite and then paddle the thirteen miles back to my car the next day. I loved the idea of hiking the towpath but I really didn't like the idea of turning around and retracing my steps all the way back to Great Falls, so on the day before I shuttled a canoe up to McKee-Beshers W.M.A. and locked my canoe to a tree at the end of Sycamore Landing Road. After hiking for six hours I found my canoe and cooked and ate my dinner. I still had three hours of daylight to kill and the bugs were getting aggressive so I jumped from the muddy bank into my canoe and started my journey down river. It was such a joy after that long hike to throw my heavy pack off my back and float effortlessly down stream. It took two hours to get through the slack water above dam no. 2 and after filling my water bottles at Riley's lock(Seneca Creek) I had an hour to make it through the rapids below violets. The skirting canal rapids were fun as usual and I watched a colorful sunset as I coasted below the rapids and past the long, Watkin's Island. It was dark now but the river was reflecting the sky and I was able to pick my way through the rocks. I followed Watkin's Island until finally I was able to cross the river to the Maryland shore. I found myself at Swain's lock and contemplated staying there for the night but instead I put my boat in the canal and paddled the last two miles back to my car. It was midnight when I loaded my canoe back onto the car.

Tuesday -- July 18, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 85

The river is really warming up now but still great for swimming. Some members have been down to try and cool off. It's not bad in the shade out on the dock where the breeze can blow on you.

I saw a great-crested flycatcher yesterday. I don't think I've ever seen one before. They look like a cross between a mocking bird and a king bird, sort of.

Wednesday -- July 19, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2     Water Temperature: 90

The temperature gauge at Little Falls has been improved. Instead of giving just one reading it gives you temperature readings from the bottom, middle and top of the river. All readings were at least 90 degrees.

Thursday -- July 20, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2     Water Temperature: 90

I haven't seen our young eagle for two days so maybe it has finally left the nest.

The first thing I heard as I stepped out my door this morning was the near-by screech of a red-shouldered hawk. I caught a quick glance of it as it darted across the field and disappeared into the trees.

The first six months of this year have been the warmest in recorded U.S. history.

I wish my tax dollars were being used to stem global warming rather than being used to kill innocent civilians in Lebanon.

Friday -- July 21, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.4     Water Temperature: 90

The fishing has been great the last couple of days. The water is warm and very clear and the fish are biting. On Wednesday evening Island member, Michael Grant, said he caught 25 pan fish and 15 smallmouth bass. He said it was his best outing from Sycamore Island ever.

Reminder, there will be 30 teenagers camping here tonight and a large party will be gathering here late Saturday evening.

I called Louis Rogers yesterday, she and her husband George Rogers were the ones who lived and ran the Sycamore store for all those years. I'm sorry to report that George died about a year ago but Louis was very glad to hear from me and very interested in all the happenings around Sycamore Island. She told me that she knew the woman who is blocking the new owners of the store. She told me that Roger, when he was young, used to deliver groceries to that woman and her mother at their house "on the other side of the car tracks". She was disappointed that this woman, Norma Spiegel she called her, would file a lawsuit against the store after all the nice things that George had done for her. I told her that I would forward my Islanders to her and she said she would love that.

Sunday -- July 30, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0     Water Temperature: 90

I biked up to Lockhouse 8 yesterday,(If you haven't been to lockhouse 8 lately you really should go.) and got my first look at some of the damage caused by last month's terrible rains. There must have been some very strong winds that week as well because I saw many downed and broken trees. The towpath is severely eroded next to lock 7. It looks like the water backed up and came over the lock and rushed toward the river. It must have been quite a torrent judging by the size of the trees that were washed onto the towpath. I continued upstream until I reached the aqueduct over Cabin John Creek. Here I found more huge trees scattered on both sides on the towpath and both sides of the canal. For those of you who didn't hear, Cabin John Creek was so flooded that it flowed over the canal and towpath instead of through the culverts underneath. The aqueduct was also damaged with many of the facing stones washed away. There was also some very severe erosion on the hillside above the creek. A gigantic gully was carved out on the hill by the arch bridge knocking down trees and exposing a sewage pipe that later broke and had to be repaired.

Monday -- July 31, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0     Water Temperature: 90

There is a tree blooming on the island, in fact there are a few of them around that are blooming these beautiful white clusters. They look exactly like black locusts trees but those trees bloom in late spring not late summer. These flowers also lack the strong fragrance characteristic of black locust in spring.

A bluegill fish has made a nest/spawning pit next to the ferry landing. Its fun to watch it guard its territory while waiting for the ferry.