Notes from the Island
June 2005

The weather is cold and rainy as I write this, feeling more like the month of March than the end of May. I'm not complaining though, we made it through another spring without a major flood and there have been some absolutely glorious days down here during this past month. I try to drink in the warm and sunny days wishing I could bank them up for the days when the skies aren't so cheery. I do hope the weather begins to warm up. I've been swimming in the river only once this year and that was for the briefest of moments as the water is still only in the mid sixties, a little too cold for me.

Spring seems unwilling to give in to summer but the Island has started to bustle just the same -- weekends anyway. There were over a hundred people here during the Down River Race and it was really awesome to see the Island covered with race boats of all different colors, types, and sizes. I didn't run the race this time as I've done the last two years but stayed on the Island to help out. It was so cool to be eating fried chicken with Olympic gold metal winners and to listen to old stories from whitewater pioneers, local heroes you might say. I also met a young racer who had just made the U.S. national team. His time from the Gorge to Sycamore Island? Less than 58 minutes! We also had a large graduation party here and a troop of girl scouts stayed for a sleepover. The young scouts seemed to have a good time, commenting on the number of wild creatures they saw and heard. Judging by their expressions I think they were impressed most by the big black snake. There were two Saturdays this past month where no one volunteered for relief caretaker duty.

This spring seems endless but it has reliably worked its magic once again. What was but two months ago a barren mud plain covered with leafless trees has been transformed into a lush green jungle exploding with life from every crevice. The air is filled with the songs of exotic birds and the ground rustles with unseen reptiles. In the spring the Island is a nursery, not only for the geese that had eight nests and over twenty hatchlings, but for other birds as well. The phoebes successfully raised two chicks in a nest under the tool shed and a wren made her nest in the bow of an overturned canoe. The wood ducks have found a nest high in a sycamore, and the cardinal, robin and Prothonotary warbler call out constant reminders of where their nesting territory is. This spring has also brought us a new batch of ground hog pups. The little guys are cute and sometimes you can catch a glimpse of them near the outdoor shower as they cautiously venture out to look for food. One time I watched as the whole family crawled from their condo under the house mom, dad and two little ones. They may be cute, but I worry about the well and the foundation of the house when it comes to the digging habits of a colony of ground hogs.

I'm looking forward to a busy June. School ends on the sixteenth and we're planning two weeks of Sycamore fun and friends before my kids head to their mother's in July. I hope the water will warm up soon so we can go swimming and maybe the fish will start biting. The big event this month is the Summer Solstice Sleepover hosted by myself and club members Whitney Pinger and Roger Pollak on the 25th. Bring your tent and sleeping bag, and we'll see you there.

-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker