We are every winter reminded why more people don’t live on islands on the Potomac River. The recent weather has made for some interesting new challenges down here. As you could imagine, it’s an everyday adventure down here so you have to always remain flexible. Beyond the inconvenience, coming and going from the island cannot be taken for granted when the river starts to ice over. We tried to chop our way across the channel the other day while the ice was still thin. We worked for over an hour in the bitter wind breaking the ice and moving the ferry two feet at a time. Despite a gallant effort the ice was just too thick and the ferry became stuck in the ice thirty feet from the steps. We managed the last bit by pulling the canoe over the ice. It was a good thing that we decided to bring the canoe along at the last minute; and now we use the canoe as a sled and pull ourselves back and forth to the island. This will be the method until the ferry thaws out or the ice gets thick enough to walk across. Who knows what the next unexpected adventure will be.
I have good news. A canoe that I had given up for lost has been returned safely to the island. One weekend last summer the rescue canoe by the swim float turned up missing. I suspected that someone “borrowed” it to scout the river because soon afterwards there was a new rope swing down by the dam. I held out hope that it would turn up, but had forgotten about it until the other day when a nice gentleman came by to tell me that he had spotted one of our canoes in the woods between locks five and six. Since I had some furniture that I wanted to move off the island, I decided to use the van and drive along the towpath to pick up the canoe. I found the canoe with no trouble and was pleased to find a side road off the path that brought me very close to our long lost boat. I quickly loaded the canoe and continued up river to Sycamore. I had to stop on the way for there was a very small sharp-shined hawk plucking the feathers from a small bird right in the middle of the towpath. I watched for a few seconds before it carried its prey to the safety of the far side of the canal. I carried the canoe to the island like a shepherd returning a lost lamb to its flock.
The frozen river brings new animal tracks to the Island. The fox (or maybe coyote) waste no time in checking out the foraging possibilities on the Island once the ice bridge has formed. I’m hoping the ice will keep the beaver, with their menacing habits, off the Island. I put up the bird feeder again and it has become the busiest spot on the Island. It is such a simple pleasure to see all the animals gathered at the feeder outside my window. The congregation of birds has not gone unnoticed by the local predators either and at least once the hawks have found their meal at the feeder as well. I encourage everyone to come down, the Island is so beautiful in the winter and I bought the club a foosball table aka table soccer for Christmas; for much more on foosball, see: http://www.foosball.com/) . So come on down and start a fire in the wood stove and spend an afternoon on Sycamore Island.
-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker