June 2012

Monday -- June 4, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.4     Water Temperature: 70

The river is one solid color of red Virginia clay. I think we'll be noticing the effects of Fridays storm for a few more days yet. It's too bad that the river looks so muddy, it's supposed to be a perfect week weather-wise.

I think the Canada geese knew that I was away over the weekend. I came back yesterday morning and found the canoe dock completely littered with goose poop. I shewed them all away last night and I put my solar trail lights on the dock in the hope that it would keep them away over night. I was happy to see this morning that there wasn't any poop to shovel away. I hate getting in and out of my boat with goose poop everywhere.

Thursday -- June 7, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 70

Yesterday I put up a fancy new volley ball net in the field. It had been sitting around here for a long time and I finally decided to put it up. I also set up the ping pong table, and I bought new darts for the dart board and new chalk and a chalk holder for the pool table. It's good to have games to play, maybe we should get one of those newly popular corn-hole games where you toss the bags full of dried corn? Should be easy enough to build.

It's been quite festive here on these weekday evenings lately. Last Tuesday someone brought a bunch of crabs and someone else was sharing hand-painted chocolates from California! Not bad for a Tuesday.

I won't be here this coming Sunday. I will be volunteering at the PotomacRIVERKEEPER gala at the Swedish embassy on the Georgetown waterfront. It's a great event for a great cause and it is held at the most beautifully located embassy in the city. I encourage everyone to attend!

Tuesday -- June 12, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2     Water Temperature: 78

Bummer, just when the river finally cleared up, we get more rain to muddy the waters. I guess I should have gone fishing yesterday when I had the chance.

I attended the 10th annual Potomac RIVERKEEPER Gala on Sunday. It was a great event, held at the House of Sweden, right on the Georgetown waterfront. There were a few Sycamore Islanders there but I hope more of you will consider going next year and supporting this very important organization.

Speaking of The Riverkeepers, I'll be doing my kayak trip to support a clean and safe Potomac, starting on August 18th. I hope you all follow my trip at

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but I think I saw an American mink at dusk last night. I had my suspicions that there was a mink denning under my bedroom but when I saw this small catlike figure cruise down the brick walk near my front door I became pretty well convinced. It turns out that they usually have several dens so that might explain why I haven't seen it before. It makes sense to have them here, the Island is the perfect habitat for a small carnivore like a mink. And there is plenty of prey here with all the mice, frogs, snakes and small fish we have. So our amazing list of mammals seen on the Island includes; mink, grey squirrels, flying squirrels, deer, raccoon, ground hogs, beaver, otter, white footed mice, muskrats, meadow voles, and star-nosed moles. I've never seen a chipmunk or a Virginia opossum here though.

Monday -- June 18, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 78

What a great Father's Day weekend we had down here. The weather was perfect, the river was clear and warm and the fishing and swimming were superb. I even caught a three-pound bass on Saturday evening!

On Friday I hosted a friend's birthday party and the Club members that were here were thrilled at the wonderful live music being played on the deck. We had a complete acoustic band with guitars, banjo, accordion, stand-up bass, ukuleles and a fiddle! At one point, the fiddle player was playing out on the river in a row boat and the sound was magical!

We also had a whole bunch of fun playing badminton with the new net I installed, but sadly one of the members let their kids use the new net as a hammock and it broke.

Well, the weather was so perfect and the humidity was so low that I decided that I just had to go camping on Saturday night. So, after finally getting everything packed into the canoe we set out from the canoe dock and headed upstream. Our plan was to follow in the paddle strokes of the old-time club members and take our canoe all the way up, past the beltway bridge, past Stubblefield falls, past Carderock and camp on a small Island called Perry Island, just below Offutt Island. My guess is that we paddled about seven miles upstream and we gained about 23 feet in elevation! A similar trip along the canal would have required going through seven locks, locks 7-14! It was tough going but it was worth it. The scenery was spectacular and we saw an abundance of wildlife, we even saw peregrine falcons under the beltway bridge! After five hours of paddling upstream we were pretty tired and hungry but we found a nice place to pitch the tent and then, like I said, I caught a huge bass. Then we cooked it and ate it.

Monday -- June 25, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 83

Another pretty weekend. I hosted my mother's 80th birthday party here on the Island on Friday. It was perfect, the storm didn't hit until dinner and the cake were all done! What a storm too. In a very short time we got close to half an inch of rain. Thankfully it didn't muddy up the river too much and the water is clear again today.

We also had the 127th Island Anniversary Party on Saturday night. It was a big success and I'm positive that everyone had a great time. The food, the decorations, and the band were excellent and the island-shaped cake, complete with canoe and ferry, was truly a work of art. It was fun to see everyone dancing, but the highlight of the party was when the little girls were singing along with the karaoke, very sweet.

Last week, on Sunday, the wind was blowing pretty good from down river and it inspired us to try and get a sailing-canoe in the water. I'd always dreamed of resurrecting some of the antique canoe-sailing equipment thats been sitting here and on Sunday, we got around to doing it. In order to sail a canoe you need; lee boards, a mast, a sail, and a canoe that can hold a mast. The lee boards I salvaged from the old lockers before the renovation. (finding the lee boards is actually what inspired me to try the canoe sailing) There were also some old mast-holders in the old lockers but thankfully there is an aluminum canoe on the Island that has a built-in mast-holder.(thanks Gerry) All that we needed now was a mast and a sail! I had found a good, sturdy, curtain rod sitting out on trash-day a few days earlier and the sail we fashioned from an old blue tarp, hemmed with duct tape of course. We rigged some ropes and pulleys so that we could keep the sail trim and before we knew it we were sailing around the Island! We'll need to do some sail modifications, but we were able to tack into the wind until we reached the end of the Island and then we were off to the races! I ruddered with my canoe paddle and Mary trimmed the sail, it was awesome!

I want to thank Club member Kent Halstead. Yesterday he gave me a signed copy of his latest book, Novel Guide. This is a great book, full of pictures, passages and useful information about 575 award winning novels. You should get one of your own, published by Compass Books.

Monday -- July 2, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.8     Water Temperature: 90

Death and destruction. Thankfully, the only casualties were trees, but we did have a lot of casualties. It seems we got hit by the full frontal force of the derecho! It was similar to the micro-burst that hit us about three years ago when we lost tree black walnut trees. Sadly this storm took out the last of the two black walnuts that were up-island from the swim dock. That old grove of walnuts is on a map of the Island that was drawn way back in 1932. There is some hope for one tree however, it is broken in half but there are some living branches still attached to it.

Of course, when the big walnuts came down they took a few other trees down with them. The old box elder by the swim dock was destroyed as were some other smaller trees. The wind also ripped our big linden tree in two, half still standing. I couted close to twenty tree, sycamores and silver maples that lost there tops, as it were. I think we are going to plan an emergency work day this weekend so check your e-mails from the Club.

The other down side of the storm was that as soon as it hit my power was knocked out. I finally got it back today but not before the freezers and refrigerators were completely hot. Plus, all weekend we had to flush the toilets with buckets of river water. It was really bad timing too, since I was sick with a fever the entire weekend. I want to send a thank-you out to the caretakers, Dan Schemer and Susan Dunham, that were here on Saturday morning right after the storm, they really picked up the slack for me.

Seeing all of these trees down got me to thinking about the large trees on the Island. There are two trees that are particularly tall, the sycamore by the canoe shed and the tulip tree just up-river from the clubhouse. I used an old loggers method to measure the tulip tree and I'm guessing that it is from 100-120 feet tall! The club house is 50 feet long to give you and idea of how huge this tree is. If it fell toward Virginia it could easily reach the waters edge near the swim dock!

The river is super low right now. I checked and it hasn't been this low in close to a year, since last August.