Saturday -- January 1, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 33



Sunday -- January 2, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 33

I have to tell you the exciting story of how we broke up the river ice and freed the ferry. Initially, I went out with the big metal digging bar and did some test holes to see just how thick the ice was. The ice was thinning in some places but I was not encouraged to find that it was still three and a half inches thick (About as thick as my index finger is long.) in other places. I continued in the canoe, across the ice toward the ferry which was still marooned in the center of the river. As I got closer to the edge of the ice sheet the entire sheet of ice began to sink slightly into the river. This sheet of ice ran the entire length of the island, cantilevered from the island out to the middle of the river. I was now creating ripples on the water and water was pumping up through holes in the ice as I jumped up and down in the canoe. I was also allowing water to pour in over the top of the ice as I reached for the ferry. Then, my weight in the canoe cause the ice on the edge to crack and a large chunk was set free. This gave me an idea. If I was able to get the ferry on top of the ice the weight of the ferry would break the ice for me.

I climbed aboard the ferry and immediately got to work to implement my plan. I had to move all the heavy roofing shingles from the island side to the mainland side of the ferry. (I use them to balance the lopsided ferry) After I had moved one stack of heavy shingles I was able to use my own weight to get the ferry nose out of the water and with one big heave-ho I got the ferry on top of the ice.

While I was doing this I had attracted some attention and a small crowd was gathering on the Maryland shore. There were some people that I recognized and a couple that I didn't, but I went over to ask if they wanted to help. They all gladly agreed and suddenly I had six people to use as counter weights. I could not have asked for a better crew and soon we had a routine down. First we stood on one side of the ferry and got the nose high up in the air. Then we would pull ourselves up onto the ice. Then we would all walk back to the Island side of the boat and wait for the ice to crash beneath us. We did this several times but each time the ice was thicker and harder to break. One time, near the end, I was alarmed at the steep angle of the ferry as we popped a mega wheelie onto the thickest part of the river ice. The ice broke but it was now right up against the river bottom. I was able to jump onto the dock at this point and together we broke up the remaining ice between the ferry and the Island. The channel was free! Then, we had to move all of the huge icebergs that were floating around. We were all thrill at our success and everyone seemed glad to have had the adventure. I invited all into the clubhouse for a refreshment and even gave a tour of the Club to the newbies. Fun, adventure, and new friends, that's what its all about right?

Tuesday -- January 4, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 33

Ice on the river this morning. It was thin but it doesn't take much to keep the ferry from plowing ahead. Plus, I try not to use th ferry for a battering ram. Those aluminum hulls aren't made for ice breaking. The ice was thin, so instead of chopping at it I decided to use a different method. I decided to create large waves in the water to cause the ice to fragment. I pushed up and down on th ferry while standing on the dock, and sure enough the ice broke up into huge sheets. This made it easy to push the ice and open the channel again. The cool thing was that as the waves radiated across the ice it caused the ice to "sing". The ice rubbing against itself made a rather pleasant sound, similar to a chorus of crickets.

Wednesday -- January 5, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 33

Easterday Well and Pump are here today. They are going to install the new pre-filter for our well system. They also discovered that our water-quality sensor has gone bad again. This is the second time that the sensor has gone bad. Now they are going to have to make another visit to change out the bad sensor. I wished that I had known, could have saved them a trip.

Monday -- January 10, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature: 32

There has been ice blocking the ferry every morning lately. Yesterday I cleared a path through the ice, but today I did not. Instead, I rigged a secondary rope just up river from the ferry rope and I was able to use that to pull myself across in the canoe. Now I can cross in the ferry if the ice melts or use a canoe if the river stays solid.

Big News! There was a truck and a crew on the towpath today and they were pulling all the fallen trees from the canal!

I had my first confirmed sighting of a coyote last Saturday night. It crossed Macarthur as I came up the hill to my van. It was tawny brown, it had long, dog-like legs and its tail was perpendicular to the road. Fox always run with their tails down.

Tuesday -- January 11, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature: 32

I did not break up the ice today so the FERRY IS CLOSED.
Sorry folks, it's supposed to warm up on Sunday so maybe by then we can free the ferry.

Thursday -- January 13, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature: 32

I just talked to the C&O Canal volunteer coordinator, Geordie Newman. He said that the metal bridge over the canal is schedule to be worked on this year!

The preliminary research has been done and the project is on the "PMIF" list. They are just waiting for the budget to be released so that they can plan the work.

He is also going to send me the details of the canal adoption program.

Monday -- January 17, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 32

I hope everyone enjoys their day off and I hope we all remember what Martin Luther King did for this country. It is sad to have lost such a great American in such a violent way.

Anyway, back to the immediate. The ferry is closed again today. So far there has not been any noticeable melting on the river, and I'm sure I could just walk over to the mainland, if I had the nerve. For now I'll stick with sliding over in the canoe. Maybe we can come up with a new sport, ice canoeing.

I'm not sure of what to expect next, there is rain on the way, so maybe the river will thaw out this week.

Wednesday -- January 19, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 36

Spring-like weather this afternoon but the wind and returning low temps have kept my spirits from getting too high. The ice disappeared from the south-facing virginia side of the Island but the ferry is still caked in ice.

I was afraid to try the usual method of sliding across the ice today. Everything warmed up so much that I thought my canoe might break through the ice in the middle of the river and I would get stuck. I decide not to try it and looked for another way across the river.

I ended up launching my canoe from the captains float and paddling up-river to the edge of the ice flow, then I portaged the canoe over the head of the Island to the other side where I found a stretch of open water that led to the mainland.

Friday -- January 21, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 36

There has been a lot of thawing the last couple of days but the ferry is still encrusted in ice. Temperatures are expected to dip into the teens tonight so the ferry will be closed again this weekend.

Tuesday -- January 25, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 32

Here I am, back from the mountains, to give you your daily ice report. I wish I had more words to describe the ice. Like the Inuit people have a dozen words for snow, I need more words to describe all the different types of river ice. My favorite ice is the new ice with its kaleidescope array of angular shapes and colors. The reformed ice from this past weekend's cold snap reminded me of a big glass coffee table. The ice was so perfectly smooth and clear that it looked like polished glass on a showroom floor. It was so clear in fact that it made me worry that it would not support the weight of the canoe. Thankfully, when I plopped myself into the canoe I could see that the ice was a solid inch and a half thick. I knew the ice would support me but it was a little creepy seeing the leaves floating by, just below the surface.

Thursday -- January 27, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 32

When I walked out this morning it was hard to believe that just eight days ago I had been watching an eagle soar over the river while I paddled down to the dam, in sunny, fifty-degree weather. Today, the Island is snowy white and the river is covered in a grey slush. The slush is smooth except for those areas below where the big trees arch over the river. There, the snow had gathered and fallen in clumps from the branches, leaving the surface jagged and full of craters. There are also quite a few fallen branches out there below the sycamores, a testament to the weight of this wet snow. The rope for the bell, and my "Axillary Rope" are both frozen into the slushy river. The good news is that the ferry lines, phone line and power line are not frozen into the river.

I have been talking a lot about the ice on the river lately and this has made me realize that this is definitely the worst winter I've had on the Island. The cold weather seems to have started very early this year making the coming and going especially....memorable.

It has been exciting dealing with the icy river and giving you all of these daily ice reports. I've enjoyed the unexpected adventures that the river has offered, but sometimes, when I come home, I'm just not in the mood. Like last night, for example, when I had to make it home in the middle of a thunder snowstorm/snow thunderstorm.

I had made the dire mistake of driving home at the chaotic height of rush hour and I could not believe how bad the roads were. I decided to park my van and walk the last three miles from Friendship Heights. It was a long walk in the blowing snow but I was glad to be out of my slippery van. I was especially pleased to be out of my van when I reached the hill on Massachusetts Ave. and found it to be completely impassable. Anyway, the difficult part of the journey came when I reached the ferry landing. The smooth, clean, easily-traversed ice that I had become used to, was gone, and in its place was a sea of cold slush about three inches thick. The canoe was filled with slush as well and it was now extremely heavy. I stood there for a moment with the snow pouring down and the lightning flashing through the clouds and I knew it was gut-check time once again. Should I slop the slush out of the canoe and try to yank myself through the muck or should I keep walking and find another place to sleep tonight? I decided to give it a try in the canoe. I carefully stepped into the canoe and with one strong jerk at a time I slowly inched my way through the slush. Of course the pull-rope was also covered with ice and it was difficult to get a good grip on it as I braced myself against the canoe thwarts. I was half-way across, my muscles were aching and I was sweating profusely under all my winter layers. I was exhausted, but, like a mountaineer trying to reach the summit, I pressed on. Finally, with what seemed like my last ounce of strength, I was able to touch the canoe against the ferry and climb onto the Island. I slowly walked to my door, my arms limp by my side and the clumps of snow splashing all around me. I was happy and relieved to be back home.

Friday -- January 28, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 32

I learned something new today. When it comes to shoveling snow out of a canoe, a plastic canoe paddle works even better than a snow shovel. The paddle works pretty well on removing the snow from the steps as well.

I'm a little worried about the eagles in their nest and I wonder how they deal with all this snow. There are times when that nest looks like a perfect perch, almost like an armchair high in the branches, and there are other times when it seems very much exposed to the elements.

Sunday -- January 30, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 32

Ferry is still closed.