Notes from the Island
April 2007

GET PSYCHED! The Workfest is coming up on the 15th of April and there is a lot of work to be done. Let's take some pride in the Club and get this place spruced up! It's shameful: The amount of painting that needs to be done; and we need to do a better job of controlling the invasive vines that are taking over the Island. I think we should have a new sign at the ferry landing -- a big sign -- that shows we care. I would also like to see our logo on the mailbox on MacArthur Blvd., so everyone knows we're here. I need you members and waitlisters to get excited about the Island and get involved. Please contact me and let me know if you can help me prepare for the big day. There is much to do in order to be ready for the work crew arriving that morning. Call your friends and invite them down for a day of work and fun on the Island. My theme for this year's Spring Workfest is TAKE PRIDE IN THE SYCAMORE ISLAND CANOE CLUB! We need to remember what a unique treasure we have here; let's not take it for granted.

This past month has been plagued by high water and we've spent most days using the canoe to come and go rather than the ferry. The high water keeps me busy with rope-raising and mud shoveling; but at least I don't have to do a lot of ferrying. The flooded river makes for some exciting adventure as well. Here is an excerpt from my daily log that you can find at

    Sometimes I'm amazingly lucky. Maybe I was just really tired when I paddled my canoe across the river last night, but for some reason I didn't drag the boat far enough up the bank to be safe from the rising water. This morning, the first thing I saw when I rolled out of bed and looked out the window was my canoe slowly floating away from the island. I wasn't fully awake and I stared at the canoe in the muddy river for a couple of seconds, dumbfounded. The canoe stopped, snagged on one of the tree branches that now reached deep into the river. I had a chance to save her! I tried to hurry, but I was still reluctant to jump onto the flooded river before coffee. I threw on some clothes, grabbed a paddle and ran to the closest canoe I could find. As if on cue, as soon as I got outside, the run-away canoe became unsnagged from the tree branch and started moving downstream, quickly. I jumped into an old Grumman and caught up with the canoe. I tied her to my seat, but by this time I'm down at the foot of the island with no hope of paddling both canoes up river against the strong current. I made a beeline for the shore and it seemed my crisis was over, but no, those tree branches that helped me before now had a firm grip on the empty boat behind me. I used the handle of my paddle to hook a tree on the shore and with all my might I pulled until I was able to hug the tree and tie off my canoe. The branch was pulling back with a lot of force making it hard to untie the rescued boat, but finally I got it free and crawled aboard. I still can't believe that I just happened to wake up just in the nick of time to save my canoe. My record of not losing any canoes has been preserved.

    There is a stretch of land above Macarthur Blvd. between here and the dam that has been preserved as a conservation area owned by the County, The Potomac Palisades Park. I hiked there one Sunday and found amazing views of the river as well as a cool rope swing. I also found an old quarry and a spring. There is an empty house and lot up there on the down river edge of the park that just sold for 4 million dollars!

    There were about eighty or so tundra swans sitting in the river just above the dam. I heard their coo-hooing off in the distance before dawn one cold morning and after I got the kids off to school I took my scope down to the foot of the island to check them out. What a sight! Their bright white mass contrasted beautifully against the dark river and lifeless shore. Made my day.
-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker