October 2017

Sunday -- October 1, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature: 70

Well you know that we're having fun down here when you grab the ferry rope and you get sticky marshmallows and chocolate on your hands. It may be getting too cold for swimming but it's perfect weather for eating s'mores. I guess there's no avoiding it, Fall is here. The leaves are falling and the recent cold fronts have brought us the Fall migration of warblers. I saw a black and white warbler on Thursday and a hooded warbler on Friday. We also have a screeching red-shouldered hawk on the Island. Those squirrels better watch out.

The river is the lowest its been for over a year. It seems miraculous the we went a whole year without the river rising above 10 feet. The highest level was around 8 feet back in May. We've been lucky but you can bet that our time will come. Let's just hope that it's not too bad when it happens.

Tuesday -- October 10, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.76     Water Temperature: 74

Wow, it's been like July in October lately with this hot and humid weather. Thankfully the river is still nice and clear and cool and, just like last year, it looks like we will be swimming into late October.

We had a little rain yesterday, just enough to cancel the Old-timer's Picnic. The Picnic has been rescheduled for Monday November 6.

We had 1000 visitors here on Sunday. Not people of course, but grackles. They flew across the channel fifty at a time until the tops of all of the trees were alive with the fluttering and cackling of birds. They did a full sweep of the Island moving through the treetops and then, in less than an hour, they were gone. Seeing them brought back some fond memories of my first Autumn on Sycamore Island.

The swimming isn't quite over but I may decide to reel in the swim float from out in the middle of the river. It is so much easier to manage that chore while the river is low and clear.

Wednesday -- October 11, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.8     Water Temperature: 74

I received a call from former caretaker, Ken Fassler, yesterday. He lives in West Virginia now and was calling to inquire as to why he wasn't getting the Islander in the mail any longer. I explained to him that the Club no longer mails printed copies of the Islander and that we could send it to him via email. I was a little surprised when he told me that he could not receive it electronically because he refuses to use the internet in any way. I'm not sure how he is able to do that in this day and age but I found it admirable. Maybe we can find a way to print and send the Islanders to him, like a Christmas present.

It was great to catch up with him and we talked caretaker stuff for half an hour on the phone. I'm sure there are still some Club members that remember him from when he was the caretaker, back in the 1980's. He had so many great stories, like during the flood of '85 when the river was so high that he had his houseboat moored to the steps of the Clubhouse.

Ken did a lot of improvements on the Island while he was here, including the walkway from the ferry to the Clubhouse. Before he built that boardwalk, it was just a muddy path with some oyster shells thrown in for good measure. Everyone has always admired that boardwalk and the artistic way that Ken cut and laid the planks. What most of us did not realize, me included, was that the genius of this walkway lies under the planks, out of sight.

It may seem hard to believe, but buried under those planks are several heavy metal car-tire rims and metal piping (the metal pipes were salvaged from the the bridge over the canal when it was rebuilt in the 80's). Ken then fastened the wooden supports to these weights to keep it in place. It never occurred to me before, but no wonder that board walk never floated away during all these years of flooding. And apparently even the club captain at the time, John Matthews, who at first did not approve of the idea, was able to pat Ken on the back for a job well done.

Our bird feeders are less busy now. It seems that all of the gold finches have departed and the woodpeckers are lass abundant as well. I did see a late warbler passing through yesterday. Could not ID.

Wednesday -- October 25, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 65

I got back from my mini vacation on Saturday. Thanks to everyone that helped cover the ferry while I was gone. It didn't look like the was a whole lot of traffic down here during my absence and everything was in good shape. I did find a chair in the river but I was able to walk out on a fallen tree and retrieve it with a kayak paddle. I also found a dead squirrel in the middle of the path leading to the bottom of the Island. Poor squirrel, I wonder how it died. The beaver were busy while I was gone and one of the box elders at the bottom of the Island was severely damaged. That darn beaver was able to pull down the chicken wire that was around it and chomped right on through.

It's a great time of year to be on the Island or canoeing on the river. the leaves are really starting to change now and it is so beautiful to see them reflected on the river.

I'm spending my time getting prepared for the upcoming workfest on November 12. Let's hope the weather holds out until then.

Tuesday -- October 31, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2     Water Temperature: 62

Happy Halloween!

It is a little scary down here right now. The river level just jumped from 3.6 all the way up to 5.2 in about four hours! All of that rain on Sunday and Monday filled the river and it will be cresting here later tonight. We had to close the ferry, but it's not like I'm expecting any trick-or-treaters or anything. It looks like the river will drop back down tomorrow afternoon and we hope to have the ferry running again by late tomorrow.

Tuesday -- October 11, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0     Water Temperature: 62

I can't believe how quickly it has changed from summer to fall. One minute we're frolicking in the warm water and the next we're thinking about turning on the heat in the house. I guess the swimming is over now, at least for most of us. There are those that relish the cold water and like to test their mettle until late in the season. Those are the folks that grew up in New England or Canada. Not me.

The fishing is also drawing to a close but someone did catch a catfish from the captains float on Sunday.

But the canoeing is still good! Especially now that the wind has died down, Sunday and Monday were tough, windy days on the ferry and it was actually too windy to take a boat out. It's not often that we get whitecaps on the river.

I bought 22 burgers and 16 hotdogs so be sure to make to the Island tomorrow at 6:00pm for food and Potomac Riverkeeper! I'll light the tiki torches and turn on the fairy lights.

Thursday -- October 13, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.39     Water Temperature: 61

The river is going up a little bit, not sure why.

We had a great time last night before the Club meeting. There were about 18 of us here for the pre-meeting BBQ. It was funny, with all of the space we have on the Island everyone chose to eat huddled together by the grill. After dinner we heard a very informative presentation by Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks. Coincidentally, it had been exactly one year to the day since I met Dean during his Cumberland to Point Lookout paddle trip.

Then the most miraculous thing happened, we had the meeting and it was over in less than an hour! I'm pretty sure that that has never happened before, John Noble was very impressed.

Yesterday was Yom Kippur of course and it was so cool that we had member's family and their guests breaking their fast out on the Captains float at sunset.

I have to give a shout out to Gerry Barton. Once again he took it upon himself to clean out the chimney for the wood stove. He is turning into a real chimney sweep. Gerry also brought down his magic cleaning cream, "Bartender's Friend" and removed the rust stain that was on the kitchen counter in the Clubhouse. Thanks Ger.

Tuesday -- October 18, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0     Water Temperature: 68

Today I cut the grass, saw a garter snake, and then I went for a swim. Not an unusual day on the Island, except for the fact that it is October 18th! Swimming in the river in October is rare but this is for sure the latest that I've ever been in the water. It is such a fine time of year for swimming too. The water is super clear and the fall colors reflecting off of the mirror-like water are a real treat.

Tuesday -- October 25, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.8     Water Temperature: 58

No more swimming for me, the river is a cold 58 degrees now, brrr.

It's camping season! We had 15 cub scouts here on last Saturday night and there is another group planning to camp here on this coming Saturday. It's a bit chilly, but the Island is so pretty in its cloak of Fall colors.

I had a cat on the Island for most of the month, I was cat-sitting for my kid. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed having the little bugger around and some of the members were thrilled to see a cat on the Island again, just like the old days when Peter Jones had a black cat here, I think his name was Fred. The cat has gone back to his mommy, but he did earn his keep while he was here. He caught two mice. So proud of our little mouser.

I just learned of the sad news that Peggy Thomson passed away last Thursday. She was a long-time Club member and the wife of legendary Club member, John Thomson. I never met John, but I have found memories of Peggy. It was so much fun for my kids and I to visit her at her home near Chevy Chase Circle. She had a big house and she was so nice and let my young girls explore her wondrous attic that was filled with toys and items from all over the world. The other memory that sticks out in my mind is the time that Peggy came down to the Island with her daughter Hillary, and Hilly's goat! So peculiar, but like Hilly said, no rules against having a goat on the Island. We wish Hillary and her brother Dave all the best.

Monday -- October 31, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.7     Water Temperature: 58

Happy Halloween!!

The weather is still awesome and the Island is still lively! What a great weekend we had. The fish were still biting and some people even went swimming, and it's almost November!

The river is super clear too and I can see the bottom of the river in 15 feet. I had the rare pleasure of watching two catfish and a 12 inch bass swimming right under the captains float. It's like being at the National Aquarium down here.

Can a bird deliberately poop on you from above. And if so why would a bird deliberately poop on you. These were the questions that were going though my head yesterday after I was very nearly creamed by a great blue heron while I was pulling the ferry back to the Island. It was just before dark when I noticed a large bird flying down the channel above me. I was watching it closely as it flew over to see if it might be a night heron. The dark shape of the bird was silhouetted against the light sky and just as it got overhead I noticed a whole bunch of stuff flying out from between it's legs. Luckily my survival instincts kicked in and I dove for the opposite side of the ferry. It was a good thing too because after it was over the ferry looked like someone had spilled white paint all over it, right where I had been standing! Maybe that bird was mad at me for scaring it away from it's fishing spots all these years. I'm gonna have to start watching by back.