Notes from the Island
September 2009

The summer may be winding down but we have at least another month left in Sycamore Season. The air may have been cool this morning and the kids may be back in school but there are still many days of good paddling left. I just hope that those pesky hurricanes continue to stay far off to the east.

The summer wild flowers are another reason to visit the Island now. Their bright yellows, whites, purples and reds are an intoxicating contrast to the lush green that blankets the Island. It is impossible not to be awed by their intricate structure and variety. I could try to identify and name all the different species of flowers but maybe its better to appreciate them for how they fit into the landscape instead of how they fit into a scientific category.

This is not a big time for birds but we do see plenty. Eagles have been seen catching fish near the Island and there are more great blue herons than we can count. There is a solitary great white egret hanging around on Ruppert’s Island. (Last year there were three egrets there.) Unfortunately the peregrine falcons that nested last year at the beltway bridge did not return this year.

The fishing has picked up this month and we did another float trip in canoes from Penefield lock down to Swain’s lock. It’s only about three miles from lock 22 down to 21 but we still got in six hours of fishing. This is a wonderfully scenic trip and I always find it hard to believe that no one else is out there, well almost no one. The trip starts by putting in at the new boat ramp at Penefield. The ramp doesn’t go into the river instead it puts you into Muddy Branch Creek so that you must paddle through a tunnel, under the canal, and down the creek to reach the river. The best part is when you’re leaving the mouth of the creek; it’s like emerging from a cave, as the canopy of trees gives way to a big sunny sky and a big open river. The fishing was great too.

I bought the Club a copy of the book about the history of the Brookmont neighborhood. I found it very interesting with many references to Sycamore Island. It seems that Brookmont and Sycamore have much history in common. One thing I found especially interesting was that Montgomery County instituted a prohibition law in the mid-1880’s that made it illegal to serve alcohol anywhere but in a club. The book talks about how many “clubs” opened up along, a then very rural, Conduit Rd. (Macarthur Blvd.) I wonder if this was the catalyst for our founding fathers to open this Club. The original name of the club after all was The Sycamore Island Pleasure Club, no mention of canoeing at all.

We’re making progress but there is still much painting and other work yet to be done down here. We will be planning another workday before the annual fall clean up, probably October 4. Please come and pitch in.

-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker