Notes from the Island
Autumn is here. Huge sycamore leaves are turning brown
and falling all over the lawn. The spice bushes have yellow
leaves and red berries. Black walnuts drop onto the tin roof
of the canoe shed sounding like gunshots.
The beaver are preparing for winter by clearcutting the
maple saplings and transporting them to their lodge on Box
Elder Island off the lower tip of Sycamore. I have wrapped
chicken wire around the base of some maples so we don't lose
the entire grove. Apparently beaver don't like the taste
of sycamore or box elder, but they have felled our only
dogwood and sweetgum trees as well as a small bald cypress.
Sometimes they nibble the bark off the base of a large
tree, causing it to die.
The Canada geese, wood ducks and grebes are flying
through on their way south. I even spotted an immature
broad-winged hawk resting on the Island before continuing its
journey. The cormorants, great blue herons and kingfishers
are still here, while the first seagulls have arrived for their
winter stay on Broadwater.
I haven't seen any fruit on our Pawpaw trees, but we do
have wild persimmons and hickory nuts. If you walk from the
lower end of Sycamore up the sunny Broadwater side of the
Island, you can still see flowering ageratum, smartweed,
sunflower, asters, ironweed, choke cherry and Joe Pye weed.
David Lyles brought some boy scouts down looking for
plants and animal signs and we saw deer tracks in the mud at
the lower tip of the Island. Kathy Carroll and Marty Burgess
brought a school class down to identify the flowers and the
The swimming has been nice. Holly dove in for the last
time this year on October 27th. She reports that she didn't
stay in long. The river continues to be very low and very
clear. The fishing has started to drop off.
Tryon Wells, Doc Taliaferro, Holly, a few friends and I all
assembled on the warm night of the October full moon and
canoed up the canal to Lock 8 at Cabin John and portaged
over and descended the Potomac. The full moon reflecting off
the river provided lots of light, although we did manage to
get stuck on a few rocks. In some spots, however, the water
was so clear we could see three feet underwater by the
Holly and I also paddled down from Old Angler's Inn one
morning. The river was so low that we couldn't enter the
channel between Offut Island and the Maryland shore. We
negotiated Yellow Falls easily, but then had to scout the
rapids which had appeared a hundred yards below. And
Stubblefield seemed to have more rocks than waves.
The big Workfest is coming up this month. We have to
bring in the floats and rake the leaves as usual. Several
volunteers hacked away at the kudzu vines last month, but I'm
sure we'll be able to find more. See you then.
-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker