Notes from the Island
January 1990


The river froze solid this month. The ice was 6-12 inches thick and you could skate across to Virginia, down to the Brookmont dam and up to the first set of rapids below Minnie's Island.

As the river was freezing there was a small pool of open water 100 yards from the swimming float where the white geese would stay. In the morning I would go down to the bank to feed them corn and it was funny to watch them slip and slide across the ice as they waddled over for breakfast.

When even the open water froze over, the geese and all the other water fowl disappeared. A few days later I spotted the white geese near an open pool above Ruppert's, but all the wild geese, the ducks, the herons, and even the seagulls are gone - at least for the moment.

In the first days of skating both the ice and the river were very clear. It was startling to glide over shallow areas and see vegetation undulating with the current and minnows darting about underfoot.

The beavers had collected a lot of maple branches for food and stored them in the water near their lodge above Rupperts Island. After the freeze you could see where they were nibbling the branches above and below the ice.

After a few days hundreds of skaters came down. It was strange to look out my window and watch a hockey game out on the slough. I haven't seen so many members on the Island since the summer. The Thomsons, the Schlefers, the Lentzes, Penny Doolittle, David Lyles, Jack Colwell, John Matthews, Mimi Cantwell, Gerry Barton, and Louise Meyer were all here. And I'm sure there were others. Michael Grant did some crosscountry skiing on the canal and some winter camping at the southern end of Sycamore.

Holly and I were a little nervous that our cat Fred would leave the Island once the river froze. A couple of winters ago I came back at night and found Fred waiting for me on the pedestrian overpass above the Parkway. However, this year as soon as the ice froze, a dog came over and chased Fred farther up a tree than I've ever seen him go. Since then Fred's stayed in the house a lot and only gone out at night.

This winter has already been exciting. I can't wait to see what happens in January and February.

-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker