February 2007

Tuesday -- February 6, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature: 32

I really should do a better job at keeping up the daily log, all the things I wanted to talk about a week ago are much less relevant now, especially since I now have all this cold weather to ramble about.

The river is frozen. We woke up Monday morning to a thin layer of ice around the ferry. We managed to use the ferry in the morning but by midday the ferry had become obsolete. I did have to do one more ferry trip though, since I didn't want the ferry to be stuck the mainland shore so when I got home at around 2:00 p.m. I started chopping my way to the island. The ice was not very thick and was easy to break but it was very slow going and I had to find a better way. It was extremely cold in the wind and I was only a quarter of the way across. I decided to move all the counter weights (otherwise known as roofing shingles) to the opposite side of the boat so that the pontoons would rise above the ice. The angle of the ferry to the water was steep but now I was crashing through the ice with abandon and soon I was on the island, happy and warm from all the exertion.

This morning we found the ferry firmly cemented into the river. It was strange to step onto it and have it be rigid, not buoyant. I heaved a canoe onto the ice and I was very pleased to find that the ice could support the load. The canoe slid across (on top of) the river like a dream as I tugged on the pull rope. The hardest part is getting the canoe sled started, it reminded me of sled dogs trying to free a stationary sled. If this weather keeps up we should be able to WALK across the slough by the end of the week.

I heard that there were people skating on the canal today, near lock seven.

Friday -- February 9, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature: 32

I guess the Island is closed. If there's no ferry there won't be a need for a relief caretaker tomorrow either. The river ice is probably thick enough to walk on but there is always thin ice near the shore by the steps. I think the beaver are keeping that open so they can get out and forage for food at night.

Yesterday we woke up to frozen pipes. We had no running water and the drain in the tub was frozen shut as well. A blow dryer and a space heater got the water running again but I can't figure a way to clear the tub drain. It doesn't seem to be warming up outside so I might try cutting a hole in the floor so I can get a blow dryer in there, uhg.

I really appreciate how the river froze so quickly. There is nothing worse that a half-frozen river; can't use the ferry and once you get the canoe into the open water, you're stuck. So far, the canoe sled is working great. I did run into one problem though. The two inches of snow we got made it impossible to pull the canoe over the ice, too much friction. Thankfully the kids didn't have to get up and go to school early that morning so I had time to, what else, shovel the snow off the frozen river. One concerned passer-by stopped and watched as I slowly made my way across the river, shovel in hand and canoe towed behind me. Too bad we didn't get a picture of that.

I wish I could say I've been up to lock seven to ice skate but as of yet I haven't. I wonder what the conditions are like. Sometime a layer of snow can spoil the skating. Hopefully someone cleared the snow.

Monday -- February 12, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature: 32

I went ice skating on the canal, not here but further down near Chain bridge.

The geese are gone of course but the ice has allowed the fox to roam on the Island.

By the way, I got the bathtub drain open. I cut a hole in the floor next to the tub and held a blow dryer against the pipes.

Wednesday -- February 14, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature: 32

Water Level at Little Falls: 2.8     Water Temperature: 33

It's a little more difficult, now that the kids have been at home all day since Tuesday, to get on the computer and write. I guess we'll all need to have our own computer before long.

The river was very fickle earlier this week. There was slush and thin ice that made it extremely inconvenient to come and go on the Island. The river is now frozen solid again but the surface is no longer glass-like but opaque. The refrozen slush looks like frosted glass and is the texture of an orange peel(except where the canoe broke through the ice). The winds of last night have littered the river with tree branches and its strange to see the slough looking like a deserted parking lot.

I find it fascinating and amazing that the sycamores happen to disperse their seeds after the biggest ice storm of the year. The tiny seedlings with their little tufts of light brown hairs are everywhere;on the towpath, on the trail, and scattered all over the impervious river.

Tuesday -- February 20, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.8     Water Temperature: 33

What a fantastic time we had down here on Saturday. Club member Star Mitchell threw her biannual winter party down here and for the second consecutive time all the guests were able to WALK over to the Island. There was a full table of every kind of food and the room was nice and toasty from the sweet smelling wood fire in the stove. Some younger members of the club(Paul Winkler and friends) showed up to skate on the river and I followed them in my skates as we sailed up and down the slough between the Island and the towpath. It was such a novel experience to be skating mid-river and to be doing it while tossing the frisbee around made it surreal. Later, as we told adventure stories around the ping-pong table someone noticed a red-tailed hawk land on a tree outside, right at eye level! We soon realized that the hawk was after a squirrel and for the next twenty minutes we all had our noses to the glass watching as the hawk made several attempts to snatch the squirrel from the trunk of a tree. It was riveting drama with life or death consequences for both.

Good news, I was wrong about the eagles and it looks like we may have a nesting pair this year after all.

Speaking of nesting pairs, I saw the two peregrine falcons that are likely nesting under the beltway bridge. On Friday afternoon I went over to Turkey Run Park, (I had to drive there instead of my usual canoe route), to take a hike and look for any ice climbing possibilities. The trail was sheer ice when I got there, smooth and untrampled, but luckily I came prepared. I put on my crampons and grabbed my ski poles and trudged the two miles through the snow to the beltway. My search for a climbable waterfall was fruitless so I sat on a rock to take a break and eat a snack before I started back. It was a wintry scene of snow and ice and I was quite removed from the beltway traffic above. I admired the sunlight tinting the trees on plummer's island and even though the cold was rapidly seeping back into my bone I felt happy to see that mine were the only tracks on the trail. Then something in the sky at the head of plummers island caught my eye. I knew immediately that it was some kind of bird-of-prey when I saw the flap-flap-flap-soar flight pattern, but when it banked at mid-river and showed me its long pointed wings and slate grey color I knew it was one of the perigrines that I had heard about. I watched until the bird came to rest on a tree limb on Plummer's, very close to and level with the bridge. Then I saw the mate perched on a limb nearby.

Friday -- February 23, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.8     Water Temperature: 33

I'm closing the ferry today because of strong winds.

By the way, all the ice is gone and we started using the ferry again yesterday. After weeks of struggling into a canoe everyday the ferry seems like a real luxury.

Monday -- February 26, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.8     Water Temperature: 33

That was a nice little snow bomb that we got yesterday but mow I'm hoping that we can head towards spring unobstructed by winter storms. I have thoroughly enjoyed the past few weeks though. I did winter sports like ice-skating, cross-country skiing and even ice-climbing at windy run waterfall, but I'm ready for warmer days and leafy trees.

The river is dotted by seagulls and small chunks of ice and there is an occasional merganser or grebe seen diving for food.

Tuesday -- February 27, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 39

The melting snow is dripping through our failing roof into the club kitchen. It's not a big problem and easily cured with a bucket.

I had other water problems that weren't as easily fixed. The weather warmed up so I decided to turn on the water to the clubhouse. It's good to have water up there but turning on the water always seems to expose the weak points in the plumbing. Today I replaced the fill gauge for the toilet and a new feed line for the ladies bathroom sink. By the way, we desperately need a new vanity in the ladies room, if anyone is getting rid of one let me know.

I was face to face with a raccoon last night as I walked through the screen porch. It was probably attracted to the trash bags that were left there. I'm not sure how this large mammal got through the door but never underestimate a raccoon.

The cardinals were singing early this morning as I trudged through the mud puddles between the ferry and the bridge and I got that elusive spring-memories feeling. I saw a brilliantly-colored wood duck from my window this afternoon and I knew spring would soon be here.

Wednesday -- February 28, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 39

That darn raccoon tore a hole through the screen on the porch and I just heard a large animal digging under my bathroom, groundhog.

I finally got smart and ordered a whole case of Rid-X septic tank treatment.

The river is on its way up and they're predicting seven feet by Saturday so check before you come down here.