Notes from the Island
November 2007

Now that the water temperature of the river has dropped below sixty degrees and the sun goes down before six in the evening, I think it's safe to say that the summer season on the Island has finally come to an end. It makes me so glad -- I mean sad, of course -- to think that I won't have to pull the ferry as much for a while.

October was fun. We had great weather and I set a personal swimming record. I (and others) went swimming in the river on October 21. That's a full month after the Equinox! Another event to celebrate this past month was that we finally got some rain! That made all of us paddlers very happy.

I took advantage of the wet conditions and paddled Cabin John Creek for the second time. This time the water was higher, actually too high, and after I saw the first drop with its three-foot standing wave I decided to wait for the water to go down. I was glad I did because even with a foot less water to cope with, that creek was still very pushy and the short run was over before I knew it. October is a month of dramatic change here on the Island and we have been treated to beautiful river vistas nicely colored with yellow and red. My favorite time is in the morning. When I see that mist on the water and the sun breaking over the trees, I just want to jump in my boat and paddle out into the fog.

I heard a story this past month about hundreds of fish confined in a deep pool up above Ruppert's. It's impossibly rare for the conditions of low water and clarity to combine and offer us these great river experiences. But then again maybe this will be the norm of the future. I saw something unusual in the river one night. We were sitting on the Captain's float around 11:00 pm when something started to cause the mirror-still water to stir. My immediate response was that it's a beaver. I knew, of course that no fish would be making these kinds of large ripples and splashes, at this time of night especially. Then it seemed that something wasn't right. I know beaver, and they have a very distinctive wake that stays predictably straight as they swim past the docks. The creature we saw that night appeared very agile and a bit curious. This late-night episode made me think of my earlier discovery of clamshells under the dock. I like the idea of an otter spending the winter near the island. I haven't seen the ground hogs for a long time but you'll probably hear me complain about them next month when they decide to dig their winter homes under my bathroom again. I saw a bunch of swamp sparrows feeding on seeds at the foot of the Island.

I'll see you all at the Workfest. I'm renting a truck so we can haul out a lot of junk. I also want to build a new rack for the canoe paddles and maybe a landing between the two sets of steps on the Maryland shore. We have to bring in the floats, but I want to petition that we leave the Captain's Float in the river, at least for the time being. We also need to rake leaves and paint, if conditions are right.

My Raptor class on Wednesday nights runs through November so I won't be able to attend the monthly meeting; but I plan to attend the big holiday meeting in December.

-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker