Notes from the Island
June 2003


It's been a bad month for Islanders! The rain and the high water have swamped many island picnics and parties this past month. The water level hasn't been below five feet since May tenth! I'm torn between feeling guilty because the ferry has been closed so much, and being a little angry that my first spring on Sycamore Island has seemed more like winter in Seattle. The kids and I have been able to come and go without too much trouble, but it just isn't as much fun on the Island when the floats are unreachable, the landings are under water, and when there's mud everywhere. The water is only three degrees warmer than it was over a month ago! We wish the sun would come out and that the bell would start ringing.

On the positive side, the month started out with nice warm, sunny days. It was perfect weather during that first week while they were here working on the well. The river was clear, and it was safely below the hazardous stage. I even went swimming. There is a positive side to this incessant rain as well, making it possible to paddle some of the smaller, usually drier, streams in the area. There are many great canoeing rivers and streams around, most of which rarely have enough water in them, until now. This wet spring has made it possible for me to explore some great canoeing in Rock Creek, Catoctin creek in Virginia and the Rappahannock River near Remington, Virginia. These three streams, which are normally dry boulder fields, were transformed into raging white water torrents, perfect for a day's adventure.

It has been an interesting month as far as the wildlife is concerned. The most unusual development is that a ground hog has somehow been marooned on the island and is setting up house under the men's locker room. It's tail is a bit mangled and it seems to have a limp, I'm guessing that it must have had some type of traumatic experience before it found itself on Sycamore Island. Right now I don't see any reason not to let it stay but if it starts any trouble I'll have to evict it to the mainland. As far as the birds go, this is usually the month to watch for warblers. I have seen some of the more common warblers and I've also seen scarlet tanagers, heard vireos and have been visited by large groups of cedar waxwings. The geese and the wood ducks have finished hatching their broods and the swallows and nighthawks are here in force to eat all these bugs in the air. The jewelweed is flourishing in this wet weather. Some of these plants have reached chest height already. The raspberries are beginning to flower, and I'm looking forward to eating those in a month or so.

I got out the lawn mower, now that all the blue bells are gone, and managed to get the lawn cut in between rainstorms. I've spent some time pulling kudzu and the mustard garlic plants that I see. I finished painting in the men's room but the big project this month has been my kitchen. This was a room that was desperate for a paint job. There were four layers of wallpaper dating back to the forties or fifties, and no painting was ever done after the new cabinets went in a few years back, so there were also many different colors showing here and there where the old cabinets had been. I also made some cabinet doors for the old shelves in the room and I must say the room looks pretty good. It is a big improvement, well worth the effort.

Looking forward to seeing you all down here in the nice, sunny and hopefully dry weather of June.

-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker