April 2012

Monday -- April 2, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 60

I just found the third goose nest... its right under the tree house!!!

Bluebells are fading but still hanging tough.

Somehow, the steps here at Sycamore have become a popular take-out for paddlers. Because of the long carry, over the bridge, up the trail to the parking lot, there has been relatively little river traffic here over the years. But that is changing. Maybe its because there is more parking down here, but for whatever the reason, folks like Liquid Adventures and others have decided that the carry isn't too bad after all and now use our steps on a regular basis. Now, early every Saturday and Sunday, you can count on the lower parking lot being full and at least one large wave of kayakers to be pouring up our steps and up the hill.

I think its cool and I like talking to the kayakers as they train for the next Cheat River Race or the next CCA Down River Race (May 12, finish line; Sycamore Island). I think its cool, as long as everybody realizes that the ferry has the right of way. The truth is, if there wasn't a Club here, full of paying members, there wouldn't be any steps to the river nor would there be a bridge here over the canal.

Gerry Barton had a good idea to help prevent further erosion next to our steps. We were noticing a lot of foot traffic on the slope next to our steps and we were afraid that the spice bushes that we planted there were going to get trampled. (If you recall, this section of the berm was washed out in 2010.) Gerry suggested putting up some kind of fence in order to direct people toward the steps, so I installed a six-foot section of three-foot high, wood fencing at the landing. It looks pretty good, and I watched over the weekend as all of the kayakers went up the steps and not through our revegetation zone.

Tuesday -- April 3, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 60

Very sad news about Carl Linden, Carl was the president of Sycamore Island when I was hired, nine and a half years ago.

Longtime Brookmont resident Carl Linden died last night at Washington Hospital Center. He had celebrated his eighty-second birthday with friends and family last June and had come successfully through a open heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic but was still in the midst of procedures for aortic repair.

All Brookmonters who love the canal owe a debt of gratitude to Carl as one of the leaders in the ultimately successful fight to save and preserve it.. When Justice William O Douglas challenged the editors of the Washington Post to walk the 180 mile length of the canal with him to see why it should be saved rather than paved over for a highway, he inspired Carl to begin many long years of work for the canal. Carl served as president of the C and O Canal Association for many years and frequently joined the trek that took place every ten years in honor of the original pivotal event.

After earning his BA and PhD degrees in Russian studies at Harvard University, Carl was an intelligence officer in the United States Air Force and later worked at BBC World Broadcasting and the CIA. From 1971 until 2004 he was professor of Political Science specializing in Russian studies at George Washington University. He was author and co-author of nine books including Khrushchev and the Soviet Leadership, Marxism in the Contemporary West, and the Soviet Party-State.

He is survived by his six children Derek, Laila, Per, Neil, Leif and Gage. Many Brookmonters knew them as they were growing up here. In addition, he is survived by three grandchildren Lara, Karl and Gemma.

There will be a viewing at the Joseph Gawler and Sons funeral home on Saturday April 7 from 10:00am to 4:00pm The address is 5130 Wisconsin Ave,

A Mass and reception will be held at Our Lady of Victory on Monday April 9 at 11:30am. The address is 4835 MacArthur Blvd.

Wednesday -- April 4, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.9     Water Temperature: 60

I was still in bed this morning when I heard some strange noises outside my window. Then, I thought I heard something on the roof. I quickly got dressed and went outside to see what was up. I was a little startled when I looked up to see 13 black vultures congregated on the roof of the club house. I ran back inside to get the camera. I climbed out onto the roof to get a better picture, and that was when the massive birds all flew over to a nearby sycamore tree. I've never seen that many black vultures on the Island before.

we have some different gulls hanging around now. Every winter we can count on the herring gulls and the ring-billed gulls to be here, but they left about a month ago. Right now there are dozens of bonaparte's gulls dipping and diving on the open water above the dam.

Friday -- April 6, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 60

The story for the last two days and nights has been the barred owls. Every hour, it seems, the calls of at least one barred owl can be heard hooting nearby. Sometimes there is a strange chorus of several owls and their unfamiliar calls reminded me of the howler monkeys I heard in Costa Rica. Last night at dusk, we even got a good look at the owls as two of them swooped by the clubhouse and perched in the trees close by.

Friday -- April 13, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.4     Water Temperature: 59

Be careful out there folks this is the time of year to watch out for snakes! I was walking along the shore near the Captains Float, pulling up any new poison ivy sprouts that I came across, when I nearly stepped on a snake basking in the sun. It didn't try to strike me but it didn't matter, I let out a yell and jumped five feet into the air anyway. This snake happened to be a northern water snake (non-poisonous) but there have been copperheads (poisonous) on the island before, so keep your eyes peeled and always stay away from snakes.

The owls are still out there making noise, its been a topic along the towpath this week. Seems everyone is asking about the strange sounds in the woods. Also, the phoebes are a regular sight, and we also have bluebirds and gold finches. Still waiting for the northern parulas and orioles to get here.

I just received this "thank you" note from Ginny Schubert Boawn, the daughter of past Island President, John Schubert. "I just want to thank you on behalf of myself and our family and friends. We had such a fantastic time at the Island on Sunday, April 1st. The island is as unique and beautiful as we remembered it from all those years that we were members there. It is so quiet and peaceful and so full of fond memories for all of us. Thank you so much for letting us come there again to celebrate our parents lives."

Club member John Stapko is a total stud and a huge asset to this Club. Yesterday, he put on his lumberjack hat and carried his chain saw down here to cut down a problem tree. I knew he was the man for the job and his expertise was evident when this 30-foot tree fell in the only safe place it could have fallen. The tree had to come down, it was growing right in between the clubhouse, the tool shed and the outdoor shower so we decided to cut it down before it got any bigger. He had me help him rig up two come-alongs high up in the tree. Then, as he cut the trunk, I just kept tightening the come-alongs. When the ropes all went slack, I knew it was time to run. I turned in time to see the tree fall right between the shed and the shower with very little room to spare. Gerry Barton was there and helped us move all the brush and newly-cut logs. Good job John, and thanks again!

BTW, I recorded a Rock&Roll CD with my brother. It's called "STILL HUNGRY" by HAGE BROS. If you want to listen to a sample of it you can go to, I also have copies of it here.

Friday -- April 20, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 66

The WORKFEST that was scheduled for this Sunday the 22nd has been POSTPONED until Sunday the 29th. See you all here then!

Saturday -- April 21, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 66

The trees are all leafed-out and the forest canopy has returned. The Island is now blanketed with shade. The bluebells and the other spring flowers have faded and it feels like spring is giving way to summer. Heck, the river is even warm enough to swim in.

Well, since I plan to paddle every mile of this river...eventually, I took my canoe up to Brunswick, Maryland and knocked off a few miles towards that goal. It took two and a half days to do the 25 miles down to Edwards Ferry. The weather was great and the water was just high enough to keep us from scaping. I'd never floated along this part of the river before and it was fun passing Point of Rocks, Catoctin Mountain, Monocacy Aqueduct(with Sugarloaf Mountain in the background), Dickerson power plant, Whites Ferry, and Balls Bluff Battlefield. It wasn't as nice or as remote as paddling the Paw Paw bends but we found some good camping sites and there was an abundance of wildlife. My old map showed ferries operating on two islands along the way, one to Heaters Island and one to Harrison Island. The one at Heaters was obviously long out of use, but it looked like there was still some type of ferry still in use on Harrison Island.

We did not see a whole lot of other paddlers on the river, mostly fishermen in their bass boats, but on Sunday night we were passed by a fellow camper, in a kayak. We waved as he passed our campsite up near Point of Rocks and I never gave the guy another thought. I never gave him another thought, until two days later that is, when I see the same kayak paddling past the ferry landing of Sycamore Island! Luckily I was out there to catch the guy and he told me that he had put in at Harpers Ferry on Sunday morning and planned to get to National Airport by Tuesday evening! That's like 70 miles in three days, including portages!

I got a chance to help the USGS on Tuesday morning. I arrived at the ferry landing to find two guys in USGS t-shirts looking perplexed. They needed to get their water-monitoring instruments out into the middle of the river but were not confident that their small inflatable could handle the windy conditions. They were appreciative when I offered them the use of a canoe and they said that they would be happy to give a presentation to the Club all about their water monitoring data. Maybe we'll get them to present at a meeting next fall.

Monday -- April 23, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature: 66

On Saturday I was waxing poetic about how spring is turning into summer, but now it feels like spring is turning into winter. It was almost 80 on Saturday and right now it's only 45 degrees! It's cloudy, the wind is blowing and yesterday we had two and a half inches of cold rain! Spring is so weird around here, I guess it was a good thing that we postponed the workfest until the 29th.

Monday -- April 30, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature: 66

Well, it was a record-setting day at the workfest on Sunday. We set the record on number of people in attendance and a record for the amount of cleaning and repairs that got done! The weather was great, the food was good and we had a huge turn out from our new wait-listers, many of whom had never set foot on Sycamore Island before! I'm so encouraged, they all seem like fun people and they are definitely good workers.

It looks like all of the goose eggs have hatched and sometimes I get a view of the little fuzz balls as they scurry to keep up with their parents.

The prothonotary warbler has arrived and is busy looking for a proper nesting site. I saw it go into one of our birdhouses but it was already occupied and the prothonotary was chased away by a male bluebird. Lot's of drama down here at this time of year!

If you want to be included in our Canal Steward Program, send me an email and I will keep you posted as to when the next volunteer day will be.

Also, don't forget, Summer Solstice Dance on June 23rd!