January 2015

Monday -- January 5, 2015
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.9     Water Temperature: 40

Yesterday at sunset it was a balmy 56 degrees. Today at sunset, with the wind-chill it was a crushing 26 degrees, and they say it might snow tonight. What a difference a day makes!

There was a huge group of kayakers on the river on New Years Day. It was pretty cold that day but apparently it's become a new tradition to paddle to Sycamore Island from Anglers Inn on the first day of the year. Seems to be a very popular tradition, judging by the number of boaters climbing the hill.

Thursday -- January 8, 2015
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.9     Water Temperature: 40

Ice on the river this morning. Usually it only takes a quick two minutes to pull the ferry across the channel, today it took 55 minutes.

Thankfully I was able to break the ice, free up the ferry and get it safely back to the Island. My main concern was protecting the property of the Club of course, but I also wanted to make it home. It looks like I may pack up and close the ferry until this cold snap passes.

Monday -- January 12, 2015
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature: 32

OMG, sometimes river-life in January can get very interesting. Frozen rivers and ferries really don't mix very well. This past Thursday, there was a thin sheet of ice on the river. Luckily, it was thin enough for me to break my way across with the ferry. After securing the ferry, I was able to paddle a canoe off the Island later that day before the channel refroze. Come Friday, the channel was too frozen for paddling but sadly it was not thick enough to support the weight of the canoe. I wasn't able to get home on Thursday night or Friday. Thankfully, I have a comfortable place on the mainland where I can stay.(best girlfriend ever)

Then on Saturday, I found myself wishing for colder temperatures just so the river would freeze solid and I could go home. But I had to plan ahead and watch the weather forecast. If the weather stayed frigid, no problem, I could cross on top of the ice with the canoe. But if it warms up and starts to rain, as forecasted, coming and going to Sycamore Island would get a lot more complicated.

We made it over to the Island on Saturday afternoon. It's always nerve wracking, getting ready to put the canoe on top of the ice and testing it. You can never be too positive about whether you'll make it all the way to the Island before the ice breaks. The cool thing was that once we got going, the canoe slid us right across and it was over very quickly.

On Sunday I spent some time on the mainland and stocked up on provisions. Judging by the forecast of warmer temperatures, I figured I'd be trapped on the Island until the ice on the river melted and the ferry was free again. I don't want to do anything crazy. There is nothing worse than breaking through the ice in the canoe and getting stuck out there in the middle of a frozen river. Actually there are worse things but we're not going to mention them.

So, I'm stuck out here watching the rain and the birds at the feeder. It's like a caretakers snow day. I finally have some time to write in the log!

It's kind of funny, in this world of APPS, that there is no website where you can find out just how frozen the river is in your neck of the woods. River ice is the kind of thing where you have to have firsthand knowledge. You can't read about it, you have to go and see it for yourself.

Tuesday -- January 13, 2015
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature: 32

What's the river ice going to do today? It's anybody's guess but there is a lot more open water today than there was yesterday.

The ice on the river allowed a red fox to come over to the Island and her little tracks were everywhere in the shallow snow. She even left some yellow snow. There were also squirrel tracks and mouse tracks in the fresh snow. There were no beaver tracks however, one of the good things about the ice. It keeps the beaver out.

We lost a tree. It was a medium-sized silver maple that fell into the river just downstream from the swimming dock. I think it blew down in the strong winds, plus it looks pretty rotted inside.

Winter ducks are back, scaups and mergansers this morning.

Thursday -- January 15, 2015
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 32

I was able to chop my way off of the Island yesterday. That was some back breaking work. I had to take a few breaks but I'm confident that the river is not going to refreeze, at least not right away. It seems that most of the ice is disappearing from the river.

The C & O Canal National Historic Park is considering charging user fees for people that use the towpath and other facilities. Right now they are asking for the publics opinion and comments on how best to implement this plan. I encourage everyone to support the proposal of user fees for the park. Our park is seriously underfunded and the user fees could go a long way to help maintain the valuable and historic structures along the canal. As an aside, wouldn't it be funny if you had to pay a user fee to cross the park to get to the Island? That would be a win/win, either the park makes lots of money or the caretaker has fewer visitors to pull across the river!

Thursday -- January 22, 2015
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature: 36

I'm back from my mini vacation to Canaan Valley, WV. On the drive out there we crossed into Virginia over the main stem of the Potomac River at the beltway, then we went out interstate 66 and crossed the Shenandoah River. Once we were on Route 55 west we followed the Cacapon River briefly and then crossed the Lost River in West Virginia

We continued west, and when we reached Moorefield, WV, we entered into the valley of the South Branch of the Potomac River. Then, just after Moorefield, along Route 55, we crossed the South Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River.

Continuing west, we left the valley of the South Branch of the Potomac River and entered yet another river valley, the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River, otherwise known as North Fork.

We followed this river southwest to Seneca Creek, near Seneca Rocks. Route 33 then takes you along Seneca Creek, due west, all the way up into the mountains of the Allegheny Front. Amazing, all of those rivers feed into the river that flows right past here, at Sycamore Island.

I'm happy to report that the eagles have been spotted in the nest and seem to be on schedule for yet another successful breeding season. We were especially worried this year that they might not return since their nest was so damaged last year. What a joy it is to know that they have decided to come back and nest for the thirteenth year in a row.

I have to take back some of the nice things I said about the new towpath surface. Right now the towpath is thick mud, and this new, light-colored slim seems to be getting on everything.

There are still some remnants of ice around the Island but for the most part the river is clear of ice.

Sunday -- January 25, 2015
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.3     Water Temperature: 36

I gave the clubhouse floors their annual linseed oil treatment. Back in the eighties when the floor was installed, the method to treat the floors was to apply used motor oil. The method was unorthodox, but it was certainly economical and there was also the theory that the old oil would help to keep the termites away. What the old-timers may not have realized was that the fumes from the engine oil were probably carcinogenic. The linseed oil that I use now gives the floors a nice sheen and provides some protection from wear and tear, but I would really like to see the floors of the clubhouse refinished in the proper way. A properly sanded and polyurethaned floor looks better, is better protected and is infinitely easier to maintain.

Wednesday -- January 28, 2015
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.3     Water Temperature: 36

I had a bit of trouble getting home in the icy cold the other night. First, it was the ice on the road that was tricky. Then, the walk down the ice-covered trail to the ferry landing was quite the challenge as well. Little did I know that my challenges were just beginning.

The first problem I encountered was that the pad lock on the ferry was frozen shut and it would not open. I spent a few minutes warming it up and thankfully the stupid thing popped open. I then had to coax the carabiner that was clipped to the ferry rope to open despite being covered in ice. I thought then that I was home free, but what I did not count on was that the pulleys connected to the ferry would not move on the ice covered cable. I don't remember ever having this problem before but the ferry would not go. I had to back track a few times and do some tugging on the chains but after a bunch of cursing and pulling I managed to get the ferry over to the Island.