Monday-- December 7, 2009
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.3     Water Temperature: 41

The snow on the ground made it easy to spot the trails left by the beaver. A straight brown line of melted snow from the river bank to the young trees of the interior.

No visitors all weekend but I did get a good close look at three pied-billed grebes diving in the snowy waters.

wednesday-- December 9, 2009
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2     Water Temperature: 42

Sorry folks, the river is going up and ferry service is shutting down. The river is predicted to crest at 7 feet on Friday. We'll see.

The beaver is getting real busy and we're losing more small trees than I realized. That river monster is getting territorial as well, aggressively slapping its tail at me when I cross in the early morning.

Friday-- December 11, 2009
Water Level at Little Falls: 7.35     Water Temperature: 35

It looks like the river is cresting now at 5:00 PM. It hasn't been this high since last may, it takes a little getting used to. This big river can be intimidating at times. Especially when the air temperature is 25 and the wind is blowing at 25 miles an hour.

The river will be going down soon but it might be days before it drops back below 5 feet.

Monday-- December 14, 2009
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.3     Water Temperature: 35

It looks like the river will recede enough to run the ferry tomorrow.

Time to reel in the captains float. It might be a pain since there is a ton of debris piled up against it.

Thursday-- December 17, 2009
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.8     Water Temperature: 35

The ramp to the captain's float is back on shore again and I lowered and tightened the ferry rope. It's so much easier to control the ferry when the rope is nice and taught.

It looks like winter is here to stay with a snow storm predicted this weekend. It's amazing how quickly things can change. It was just two weeks ago that I was paddling up a low and tranquil river on a warm and moon-lit night.

Looking back at that warm night I realize how perfect it was. It's rare when all the conditions on the river are just right all at the same time. The great thing about living here is that I can watch everything align and then take advantage. I also remember thinking that night that I needed to do more things that were unique to living on the river. You know, live up to the dream life that everyone imagines exists down here.

It was December first, yet it was in the fifties. There was no wind. The river was at 3.5 feet, not too high but high enough to make the rapids passable. And, the full moon was due to rise out of the east right when the sun disappears to the west. I decided that the thing to do was to paddle a canoe up past Cabin John Creek and hike up the hill to the beer store in Cabin John. Good Idea right? No need to sit in traffic on Macarthur blvd. just hop into a canoe. How many people can say that?

My timing was perfect. I paddled upriver, into the sunset, and the sky was ablaze with oranges, reds and pinks. By the time I was past Rupperts Island the sun was gone but a giant white globe was rising over my right shoulder. The trees were bare and the moon light now cast their long skeletal shadows across the river in front of me. Soon all the ripples on the river were glistening like stars and, thankfully, I could see the rocks again. I got to shore just below Minnies Island and scrambled along the deer trails until I came out on the Parkway, right at the exit for Cabin John. It was rush hour and there must have been a problem on the Beltway because there were lines of cars everywhere. I felt a little strange, but in a good way, walking along and being the only one out there without a car.

I bought some milk and bread and hiked back to my canoe. As I launched my boat I could see the lights of the Beltway bridge to my right and the lights of Chain Bridge to my left. There I was, floating in a timeless world between the bridges.

Sunday-- December 20, 2009
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 33

Yesterday, when I walked out to shovel snow, the first bird I saw through the flakes was a junco with its deep black head and back, and its ivory bill. I thought it was appropriate to see this bird since its other name is snow bird. They're called snow birds because they migrate down from the mountains every winter.

Today there are dozens of songbirds gathered on the shore by a fallen tree. I think the fallen tree affords them a way to get a drink of water from the river since most other water sources are frozen or buried under snow. The gold finches are feeding on the seeds of the plants that are poking through the snow. They are also finding some sustenance from the tiny seeds of the Sycamores. These poor birds, I have bird seed on my list but I never got around to buying any.

I went out early this morning, just after the sun came over the trees, to take some snow pictures. I took a picture of my measuring tape in the snow on the picnic table, 17 inches! The snow is great for tracking animals on the Island and this morning I saw the tracks of mice, squirrels and a deer. I followed the deer tracks as they meandered around the Island until I came to a bathtub-shaped hole in the snow. I guess the deer spent the day sleeping right here on the Island.

Then the incredible happened, I saw two rough-legged hawks! The male caught my attention first as it took off toward Rupperts Island. Then I notice the second bird on the ground just before it took off and followed its mate across the river. I went to inspect the carnage. A half eaten gray squirrel lying in the blood-stained snow. Rough-legged hawks breed in the far northern parts of Canada and are only seen further south in the winter time. Its pretty rare to see them travel this far south, but maybe the snow storm had something to do with them being here. A rare sighting indeed.

Tuesday-- December 22, 2009
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.3     Water Temperature: 34

I shoveled the board walk to the ferry and I cleared off the ferry as well, of course. I also moved all the snow from the bridge and its steps. I did not shovel the spiral pedestrian bridge, I was hoping that the Park Service would take care of that. So far they haven't gotten to it.

The island is beautiful in the snow and I'm a little surprised that more of you haven't been down here to check it out. I guess everyone is at the sledding hills.

Big news, there is a phone in the club kitchen now, a working phone. I know that some of you will be very happy to know, I spent the snow day sorting out the Telephone Network Box. This box was a spaghetti of colored wires dangling from my kitchen wall. I managed to get it figured out and mounted again and I was even able to connect the right wires to get the club phone working again. I then installed the new phone jack and mounted the new phone in the kitchen by the stove. It looks good, sorry it took so long.

Sunday-- December 27, 2009
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.7     Water Temperature: 36

The ferry is closed.

The river is close to seven feet now and is expected to crest tomorrow morning at seven and a half feet. It's a little bit of a nuisance but its not as bad as I thought it might be.

It was nerve-wracking being out of town on Christmas and hearing the reports of over an inch of rain compounded by the melting snow. I was worried that I might not be able to get the ferry back on the Island. As it was we got home just after dark to find the dock submerged, but only by a few inches. The rope for the bell was in the water and I had to untangle it from all the driftwood it had snared. After a swift ride across the river, we managed to disembark without getting our feet wet, we used the ferry bench as a miniature bridge. I immediately began making flood preparations and as I was pulling up the ferry rope there was a huge crash and, what sounded like an explosion. The high water was excitement enough, so standing in the dark and hearing that huge tree fall so close by made us both jump out of our skins. It sounded so close that I was sure it was a tree on the Island that fell. We grabbed a flashlight to investigate but found nothing. This morning I walked down the towpath and found the fallen sycamore, uprooted with trunk broken, lying in the river.