February 2016

Tuesday -- February 2, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.7     Water Temperature: 32

I'm back. It took a little bit of ice breaking in the canoe but I finally made it back to the Island yesterday evening.

Everything looks fine. It's cool to know that no other human being has been here for close to two weeks. Just birds, squirrels, and a fox or two.

The ferry is still locked in ice but most of the river is now ice-free. It is such a relief to have the snow and ice melting so gradually, sometimes, when things melt too fast, it can be hell.

Not to say that there won't be any inconvenience. The river will exceed five feet today and they are expecting the river to reach near flood stage on Friday, so I will have a bit of flood prep to do between now and then.

Thursday -- February 4, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 8.5     Water Temperature: 38

We haven't seen the river this high in a while. Thankfully, it looks like it will crest tomorrow morning, just barely hitting flood stage at 10.2 feet. It looks like the ferry will be closed until next week some time.

I did most of the flood preparation yesterday and the day before but right now I'm heading out to tie down the last of the boats and canoes.

Friday -- February 5, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 9.92     Water Temperature: 38

The river just crested, yea! I'm so relieved that the river is on it's way back down and that it didn't get too high or cause too much damage.

Most of the Island is under water but you can still walk from the rope swing to the zip line on dry land. there is a small sliver of snow-covered land extending along the canoe shed where the zip line ends. there is water in the canoe shed but just barely.

For whatever reason, this flood did not include a lot of trash and forest debris. Normally I would expect a lot of fallen trees to be bouncing down the river but not this time. The big trees make me worry the most, I'm always afraid that they will get hung up on the ferry rope and pull it down.

Tuesday -- February 9, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.8     Water Temperature: 40

The ferry is still closed and it looks like it might not open again until the weekend.

I've been using the canoe to come and go while the river is high and it got me to thinking about when Davy Hearn was arrested back in '96 for doing just that, paddling on a flooded river. (NPS vs. David Hearn) Of course, I'm not battling any big waves and whitewater, but I started to wonder about the legality of my commute. I also started to wonder about the legality of crossing through the national park when it is officially closed like it was during the snow storm.

Thankfully I have the law firm of Longman and Van Grack (Adam Van Grack is a member of this Club) to answer my question.

The charges against Davy Hearn were all dropped because Maryland has no laws regarding high-water paddling of the Potomac River (or any other river). Thus, NPS cannot fine/arrest any individual for high-water use of the Potomac River (or any other Maryland-controlled river). This fact is true even though NPS is permitted to fine/arrest individuals for entering C&O Canal National Historic Park when NPS closes certain park areas for safety reasons (such as high water).

So, I was safe once I was on the river but I could have been arrested for cutting through the National Park while it was closed during the snow and the flooding. I surely hope that the enforcement of these closings remains low. Maybe they could make an exception in my case?

Friday -- February 12, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.9     Water Temperature: 36

Finally, after over three weeks of being closed, the ferry is open again!

Now I have to get out there in the cold and string the bell rope across the river and set up the pull rope. It'll be nice to have the ferry working again.

They are predicting very cold weather for Sunday but my hope is that it will be too windy for the river to refreeze. I have my fingers crossed.

Happy Birthday to Abraham Lincoln! I wonder if he ever strolled past the Island or maybe he floated past in a canal boat one summer's day.

Monday -- February 15, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 33

Nobody here at all on Saturday but there was one person that visited on Sunday. Winter duldrums.

The snow is nice and so pretty but be aware there is potential for some minor flooding by the end of the week.

We saw the white flash of a cotton tail rabbit on Friday. I'm surprised that there is still a rabbit on the Island.

Tuesday -- February 16, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 33

It's pretty yucky out there right now, cold, rainy and icy. I'm glad we did our cross-country skiing on the towpath yesterday before all the snow disappears today.

It looks like the ferry may closed as soon as tomorrow afternoon. Suddenly I find myself wishing for Spring.

We're expecting the resident geese to start staking out their nesting spots soon, but so far there have been no territorial ruckuses.

I'm not too happy about the rain but I've been waiting for a good rain to test the roof patching that I did. The small leak near the pool table has been an elusive problem to solve, but I think my last attempt with the roof caulk was finally successful. I'm so happy to report that I must have pin-pointed the problem and that the floor in the clubhouse is nice and dry.

Wednesday -- February 17, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.6     Water Temperature: 33

The ferry is closed and it looks like it may be closed through the weekend. Too bad I didn't get the trash out and bring down some groceries while the ferry was operating.

Friday -- February 19, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.7     Water Temperature: 33

The ferry is closed again today and it looks like it will be closed tomorrow as well, sorry.

Monday -- February 22, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.7     Water Temperature: 42

The ferry is closed for now but it's hard to tell what the river is going to do next. Lately, our local river gauge has looked like a roller-coaster ride, up and down and then up again.

Waves of rain was the catch phrase that was used to describe the weather tomorrow. I guess the roller coaster is going to go up. It's a saturation situation.

Tuesday -- February 23, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.8     Water Temperature: 43

The river might be a little high by Friday but nothing like the Friday of two weeks ago. That minor flood was high enough to be recorded on our "recent floods" river gauge here by the boardwalk, 9.92 feet!

I forgot to mention George Washington yesterday, in honor of his Birthday. We all know that Old George passed by here all the time so it's pretty certain that the Father of the Country slept here on Sycamore Island.

There have been a lot of winter waterfowl around this week, which reminds me that the 8th Annual Sycamore Island Bird Walk was last Saturday (sorry Paul). With all of this high water and ferry closings, it totally slipped my mind. Hopefully some people got together to look at the birds, even if there was no access to the Island.

Thursday -- February 25, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 7.3     Water Temperature: 44

Wow, that was some strong storm that passed through here yesterday evening. I was on the screen porch enjoying the weird and balmy 63-degree weather . The rain had started and I wanted to watch the storm as it approached. Soon it turned really dark, dark as pitch, and the white-caps were blowing upstream across the river.

The rain got heavier and then, all of the sudden, a huge gust of wind came across the Island. Everything on the porch took flight and the ferry bell started ringing wildly as the tree limb and branches started sailing everywhere outside. I could hear sheet metal and buckets being blow around and I instinctively dove for cover. Then the rain got serious and our country gutters looked like fire hoses gushing from the roof, wow.

The storm subsided and the Island isn't too worse for wear, but I can tell you anecdotally that the weather patterns have changed since I moved here. Not only is it weird to get a thunderstorm in February but many of the recent storms have come from the south or southeast, where before most storms came out of the west or north west. The screen porch used to be a nice sheltered place to store things but this last rain soaked everything. During our last snowstorm the screen porch had a layer of snow on the inside!

Whenever we have a hard rain like this I go out to look for arrowheads in the newly eroded spots. While I was out there I noticed that the erosion is getting pretty severe over near the rope swing. It's getting bad enough so that now the pipe to the septic tank is becoming unburied.

Friday -- February 26, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 7.9     Water Temperature: 44

The ferry will be closed for the weekend, high water.

Monday -- February 29, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.6     Water Temperature: 44

The ferry is closed and it looks like another week of crossing in the canoe. It's beginning to get lonely out here. It's kind of nice not having to listen for the ferry bell but monitoring this fluctuating river seems to require just as much attention

I fixed the gutter that was damaged by the heavy snowfall last month. The work was pretty straight-forward but took longer than I thought it would. I had to do a little carpentry from on top of the tall ladder to rehang the gutter support and then I had to drill and rivet the new gutter extension to the existing gutter. Then I caulked it all up real tight. I was going to have to buy a new rivet gun to do the job, since I couldn't find mine, but our nice friends at Glen Echo Hardware let me borrow one of their personal rivet guns and thus saved the Club $25! Thanks Steve, we owe you.