Notes from the Island
January 2003

This has been an exciting month down here on the island, high-lighted by a few firsts...

The most noteworthy event this month would have to be the visit we received from the Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton. I don't agree with many of her policies but it was still a lot of fun to host her and her staff for a meeting. There were many beltway insiders here but the best part for me was meeting Fran Mainella, the Director of the National Park Service, who was very friendly and seemed genuinely concerned about the issues surrounding the Park Service. They asked me to give a short presentation about Sycamore Island and I managed to get through it without getting political. The afternoon was capped off with photographs of the girls and me posing with some of the nationís big decision makers.

The other exciting event this month was the arrival of winter. Yes, winter started officially with the solstice on the twenty-second but it was earlier in the month that we got our first real winter weather of the year. Six inches of snow covered the Island in a blanket of white. The snow made the Island look so beautiful, but more importantly it closed the schools for two days, which was cause for much celebration among the younger inhabitants of the island. We spent the days playing in the snow and clearing it from the boardwalk and ferry. I also paddled around the Island in the snow for the first time. I was wishing I had a pair of cross-country skis because the towpath had become the perfect ski trail. The trail up the hill was a little treacherous as the snow turned into packed ice, but some ashes from the wood stove helped with that problem.

Well, if you get a bunch of snow and then you get a warming trend with a lot of rain, you getÖ,High Water! Yes, December brought me the highest river levels I've had to deal with yet. The river was so high (6.7 feet at Little Falls) that I had some real difficulty pulling the ferry across. I know that 6.7 can't be called a flood but I feel like I've been initiated and now I know what it means to have high water. I did devise a system, using my climbing equipment, that made it much easier to run the ferry and I'm happy I'll be able to use the ferry, even if the river gets a little high. I enjoy the challenges of living on the Island but I'm still hoping I donít get too many high-water days.

Finally, a big "thank you" to everyone for the surprise gifts that were left by our door and in the mailbox. It has been wonderful meeting everyone and to be associated with such a great club. It's great to be appreciated for trying to do a good job.

Wishing you all the best in the New Year!

-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker