February 2015

Monday -- February 9, 2015
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature: 36

Beautiful weather yesterday, especially for February! We got close to sixty degrees but still no one visited the Island all day?! I should have stayed out in WV and skied at White Grass all day.

Well, we had no people visitors but the winter water fowl were here in force. We had ring-necked ducks, common mergansers, lesser scaups, and many gulls, all very close to the Island. We also saw an eagle, and the word is that they are in the nest. I got a call from my fellow eagle-watcher up the hill, he has a much better vantage point than we do down here and he says that the eagles are sitting on the eggs, and in the same nest as last year. There was some concern that the eagles would not return to the nest they used last year because one of it's supporting branches had broken off.

It was warm yesterday but it looks like there is a chance that the river will freeze again later this week. I guess winter isn't over just yet.

Saturday -- February 14, 2015
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 32

I thought for sure that the river would freeze last night. I was so sure that I even went out at midnight to break up the thin layer of ice that had formed, just to minimize the chopping that I thought I was going to have to do. It made me think of old caretaker, Frank Davis, who used to chop the ice every hour to keep the channel open. Of course, I told the relief caretaker to stay home, I was that sure.

But this morning at six AM, (I set the alarm so I would get up before the ice got too thick.) I looked out to see that the river was flowing free, with only a little ice formed around the banks. I guess the wind shifted over night and brought some warmer air. So the ferry is running today after all. There is no relief caretaker but no worries, Mary and I have been here all day and no one has rung the bell.

Tonight, however, is going to be a different story. With lows expected to be around three degrees the ice is sure to form on the river. My plan is to leave the ferry on the Island and depart via canoe. That way, the ferry will be safely stored away and I'll be safely off Island.

Wednesday -- February 18, 2015
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 32

I was able to canoe-sled back to the Island on Monday before the snow started to fly. The river was frozen solid so it was no problem.

The problem was trying to get off the Island on Tuesday after four inches of snow fell on the frozen river. There is no canoe-sledding when the snow is that deep. The snow acts like a brake pad against the canoe, and there is no gliding.

The good news was that it had been so fricking cold that the river ice was now 2-4 inches thick and strong enough to walk on. I wasn't, however, eager to stroll across the river without protection. Falling through the ice would be a really dumb way to die.

I wanted to use the canoe for safety, so I needed to shovel a path across the river and through the snow. I put on my climbing harness and clipped myself to the ferry rope, and with the canoe very close by, I started pushing the snow out of the way. It was slow and stressful work by I'm sure it was worth the trouble. Now I can cross the river in the canoe, confident that I'm safe. The cold is supposed to be with us for a while, so simply walking across the river may soon be an option for some. I guess I'd better start locking my front door.

There was a water main break at the top of the hill on Walhonding yesterday. The muddy water was cascading into the canal at an alarming rate and the snow covered ice was soon muddy brown. The rising waters forced a group of ice skaters to quit their hockey game and make a hasty exit from the prizm. We hope all the water refreezes into a nice, smooth ice-skating surface

Thursday -- February 19, 2015
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 32

Ice, Ice, Baby!

It's pretty quiet down here. All of the resident geese had to go find open water somewhere. Likewise, there are no wintering waterfowl within miles. Some song birds are here and they are ravenously emptying the bird feeders. The fox visited the Island on Tuesday night but I think even a hungry fox may stay indoors today.

My floors are freezing. Not literally but they are very cold. I put a thermometer on the floor under my bed and it read 50 degrees, while the thermostat, at eye level, was 68 degrees. BRRRR.

The Island has lost it islandness and we are no longer surrounded by water. We are now just part of a great, big, chunk of ice. I put a lock on the shed, just so nobody gets any ideas.

Friday -- February 20, 2015
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 32

This is a special day, 24 years ago on this day, I became a father.

If you haven't figured it out already, the bird walk that was scheduled for tomorrow has been postponed. The new date is March 7. Hopefully, the river ice will be gone by then, but I'm afraid we may have to postpone again.

Monday -- February 23, 2015
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 32

I've never witnessed this before, but I guess it makes sense when you think about it. I was just so surprised when I opened the refrigerator in the clubhouse kitchen and realized that everything inside of it was frozen solid. I suppose that record-setting low temperatures will do that.

Right now the river surface is solid ice but on top of that ice are huge puddles of standing water and slush. The ice around the island must be about eight inches thick(I drilled a test hole)but the white snow that laid so pretty on top has melted, and now the river is mostly the color of grey slush.

I realize that the river ice must be rather strong, considering that it's holding up thousands of pounds of water right now, but I'm afraid there may be some thin spots near the mainland. The sun and the current are more powerful over there and I really don't want to risk walking around over there. Especially since to get there, I would have to walk through a river-wide, six-inch-deep, puddle of melted snow.

I can't believe that I'm saying this, but, the good news is that it is going to get colder all day today and by tonight we will be back in the teens. This is good because it take the question mark out of whether the ice is safe or not, and I'll be able to safely leave the Island in the morning. I hope.

Make sure you look for me in the new Bethesda Magazine. There is an ad for the Bethesda Film Festival, featuring Towpath Joe, the documentary. Also, check the link below for the world premier showing of the new film.

Thursday -- February 26, 2015
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 32

This weather reminds me of that Metallica song, Trapped Under Ice. "What is this I've been stricken by fate, no release from my cryonic state...Trapped under ice!"

Luckily, I'm not trapped under the ice, just completely surrounded by it. The most difficult part is walking on that ice-covered towpath and the trail up the hill. Very slippery.

Thankfully This month is almost over and we can start to look forward to Spring.