CARETAKER'S LOG


Friday -- October 12, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.4     Water Temperature: 70


It looks like we dodged another bullet, and Hurricane Michael passed by us without dumping too much rain in the mountains. They are predicting that the river will go above five feet on Sunday but I'm pretty sure that that prediction will change and the ferry will be open all weekend.

We actually had a quorum at the meeting on Wednesday night, good to see everyone. To my surprise and delight, the Club voted to give Mary and I a wedding gift. We feel so special, thanks everyone!

There are still no plans for a post flood clean-up so it's gonna be difficult to launch a canoe if you come down. There are still many canoes that need to be bailed if you want to come down and work, thanks.

Monday -- October 8, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.7     Water Temperature: 72


The ferry is open!

It's been almost three weeks but I can finally cross the river in a standing position again! What a summer! And then the high water trickled right into the beginning of fall!? Four times over ten feet and twice over eight feet!

Thursday -- October 4, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.5     Water Temperature: 68


The river is slowly receding but it looks like the ferry will be closed today, tomorrow and Saturday at least. It's possible that we'll be closed on Sunday too.

The flood left huge piles of mud on the boardwalk. It's like those boardwalks you see being buried by shifting sand dunes, just obliterated. There is also a lot of work to be done to get the canoes back on the racks. For now we have to wait until the river goes down. I hope that the owners of all of these private boats realize that they need to come down and put their boats back on the racks.

The biggest bummers are that the bell rope broke again and the power line to the trail lights will have to be re-strung across the river. No trail lights for the meeting this month.

Friday -- September 28, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 8.9     Water Temperature: 65


The ferry is closed and will be closed for the foreseeable future.

The river reached close to 11 feet on September 11, but we got lucky and did not get a direct hit from hurricane Florence. I was really preparing for the worst and I had already cleared out the lower tool shed and moved my dressers before we realized that the flooding was only going to be minor. Thankfully, I did not spend any time moving things back because there is another minor flood headed for us right now, 11 feet by Sunday morning. This is not what I signed up for, constant flooding. If this is the new normal I'll have to re-evaluate my living/employment situation, especially if the flooding continues into the cold months ahead. The rope holding the swim float to an anchor broke under the pressure of the rising river, but luckily I had it attached with a second cable to a tree, so it did not get away. And the anchor is not lost either, the yellow buoys are still there attached to the sunken anchor.

Speaking of buoys, the new buoys that were installed a couple of weeks ago did not fair well during this last flood. We started with seven new buoys but they are all drifting downstream. They are spread out all over and all but two of them are very close to the dam.

I set up a little painter's workshop up in the clubhouse behind the drum set. I've got all of the brand new screen doors lined up in there ready for my assembly line of priming, painting and installing hardware. Sadly, with all of this flood prep and recovery, I haven't been able to work on them too much. Plus, since I'm coming and going in a canoe, it's darn near impossible to deliver the supplies I need.

And finally, this was a really big month in my life, Mary and I got married at the Bumper-Car Pavilion on last Saturday, the 22nd of September. It was a spectacular time and I'm so thrilled to be able to introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. Towpath!

Wednesday -- September 26, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.6     Water Temperature: 65


The ferry is closed and could possibly be closed until after the weekend, again.

Friday -- September 21, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.3     Water Temperature: 65


The ferry will be closed all weekend due to high water, and maybe Monday too.

Wednesday -- September 12, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 9.0     Water Temperature: 65


The river is receding now and there doesn't seem to be too much damage, although it looks like the ramp to the swim dock took a hit. It was nice to have Mark, our editor down here on Monday to help me move all of the boats from the bottom rack and to help tie everything down.

The river crested yesterday at about 2:30. Sadly, that was right when I had to leave the Island to go to the dentist. Under any other circumstance I would have just rescheduled but this was different. This appointment was to finally install my crowns for the teeth that I have been missing for over a year. I didn't want to cross the river when it was so high but I didn't want to put off getting my teeth any longer, especially since it's only a week until my wedding.

I pushed off from the island and paddled upstream until I was past the low-hanging bell rope and then made my dash for the opposite shore. My main fear was that i would get hung up on the bell rope and get flipped, so I had my pocket knife ready to cut the rope if need be. All of the lower steps and the landing were submerged. My hope was to shoot right into that opening without getting bashed into the giant sycamore there at the steps and land at the upper steps. It was a thrilling ride but it was over in an instant. I took a deep breath and started to lock up the canoe when all of the sudden, I heard a load rushing sound. I turned to look and saw a small whirlpool right behind me as the water rushed past that big sycamore. Freaky. The awesome news is that I got my crowns done and I got my old smile back!

So now we're in hurricane prep mode. All yesterday I was busy packing up my store room and moving all of my stuff up to the living room. I decided not to wait and see. I think we'll just plan that the river will reach 20 feet, like in '96. I'll probably organize a hurricane prep day on Friday and Saturday. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

Monday -- September 10, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.4     Water Temperature: 70


The ferry is closed.

Well, here we go again. The river is climbing and I'm crying. I will spend today moving the canoes off of the lower rack of the canoe shed, and tying them down along with the club canoes and kayaks. I started some prep last night but I still have to tie down the picnic tables and move all of the chairs. We're expecting ten feet by tomorrow morning. I just hope and pray that we don't get hit too bad by hurricane Florence. That storm could eclipse all the other terrible rain storms that we've already had this year.

Some new dam warning buoys were installed last Wednesday. They installed seven new buoys and left the old rusty one there. Thanks to Gerry Barton for contacting the Corp of Engineers and pressing to have these buoys installed. The river is a slightly safer place thanks to you.

Wednesday -- September 5, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.9     Water Temperature: 86


Holy Cow! Another unexpected storm hit yesterday afternoon, around 3:00, and what a doosie! It was like a mini derecho.

I wasn't here when it hit but when I got back here I knew something big had happened. The first thing I noticed was that there were fallen branches and leaves littered everywhere. When I looked across the field, every chair was on it's back as were the Weber grills. Everything that was on the shelves in the screen porch was scattered all over the floor and, it's hard to believe, even the screen was ripped by the wind. All of the jewel weed and even the stout pokeweeds were laying flat making it easy to tell from which direction the wind came from. I walked down to the swim dock to discover that the large branch that had fallen last month had blown across the field and destroyed one of the Adirondack chairs when it landed. Walking further toward the top of the Island I realized that we had lost another big tree. This one was a hackberry that was about 40 feet tall. It fell toward the Maryland shore and damaged a couple of other trees on it's way down. It is now blocking the trail near where the old mulberry had fallen.

If you weren't here on last Monday. Labor Day, you missed a great event. Mia and Steve really know how to bring it and we are so lucky to have them and all of their positive energy here on the Island on Labor Day. It was so fun to see all of the kids and how excited they were. Lots of kids means lots of dirt in the bathrooms but I didn't even mind the extra mopping, knowing how much fun they had. I didn't count the number of children that were here but I would guess over fifty. This year we had a bonus at the regatta in the form of a live band. Club member Geoff brought his electric band and they set up in the Clubhouse. Their drummer was late so I got to sit in with them for a few songs. Wow, what a talented bunch of guys. I think everyone loved having the music.

Friday -- August 30, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.7     Water Temperature: 79


The first thing I want to say is that the Club owes Mary Kearney, my sweetie and assistant caretaker, a huge debt of gratitude. She was able to fix the problems with the Club website and made it possible for me to post updates on my log. For nearly three weeks I wasn't able to post anything or provide river updates, but Mary stepped up and voluntarily cured the problem that had left everyone else scratching their heads. Thanks Mary! You are a true asset to this Club!

I also wanted to share a funny flood story. So back on May 20th we had a flood and there was a lot of trash and debris cast unto the Island. One of the items that drifted up was a fence post. Now we get a ton of driftwood lumber here every year including 2X4,s, posts and dock parts, but his post was different. It had an address on it. We decided that it would be fun to try to find out where this post had come from and how far it has traveled to get to Sycamore Island.

We had a similar incident when the Calleva dock washed ashore here. It was just cool knowing that it came from the Calleva camp up near Seneca Creek, about twenty miles away, and had survived a trip over Great Falls to get here.

So how do you find out where a random addressed fence post came from? Well we knew that some of the worst rain fell near Frederick and that there was a wash out on the towpath near Point of Rocks and Catoctin Creek. We decided to look for matching street numbers in that area and to my amazement, Mary found an address that seemed to match. It was on Ausherman Road and it was right up against Catoctin Creek

So, I carried the post up the hill and put it in my van and one Saturday last month, Mary and I drove out to Ausherman Road. It was a tiny road and the creek was close on our right as we made the turn. The first driveway we saw was our destination and I quickly turned and climbed the hill away from the creek. Right away we could tell that there had been some serious flooding and flood damage. There was a new address post on the hillside where I guess the old one had been. The new post was surrounded by newly laid, fist-sized gravel that was spread out, all the way up the side of the driveway, to fill in where the soil had all eroded away. We reached the top of the drive and saw the owner standing near a chicken coup. He didn't seem surprised at all to see us drive onto his property and he barely reacted when I jumped out of my van and introduced myself. He politely listened as we told him the story, but he didn't seem to be the slightest bit interested in the Club or where is was, or that his post landed there. We left him the post and he graciously let us take a picture and we left. It's all kind of silly but I think that it's cool to know that that post traveled on the river for over 45 miles to get to Sycamore Island.

We are finally getting a few days in a row when the ferry is open so I'm finally seeing some of my long absent Club members that have been kept out by the flooding. We're actually getting pretty swamped with ferry pulling. I've also been busy cutting the grass, clearing the trails and painting the new stanchions. I had to make some emergency repairs to the ramp to the canoe dock and to the captains float. I also spent a long day loading my van with the flood debris and busted kayaks, and hauled it all off to the dump.

Friday -- August 24, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.1     Water Temperature: 79


The ferry is closed today but my crystal ball tells me that the ferry will definitely be open and back to normal service tomorrow, Saturday. Just in time for the weekend!

Wednesday -- August 22, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.3     Water Temperature: 79


The ferry is closed because of high water.

Thursday -- August 16, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.4     Water Temperature: 79


The river water is still a little cloudy but it's a nice cool temperature, especially for August.

We managed to get those huge trees untangled from the swim dock, hooray! Thankfully Geoff and Hayley showed up in time to help me cut the ropes and push the debris away. Hayley was even standing on top of the giant logs trying to undo the cluster of debris. Once the logs were free, I had to race down to the Captain's dock to make sure that they didn't get restuck down there. I used the long bamboo pole to keep those monsters flowing down stream, just like back in the old lumber-jack days. If anyone wants to see the logs that were stuck you can visit one of them that is stuck on something down near the warning buoys.

Tuesday -- August 7, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.6     Water Temperature: 75


The ferry is still closed but will most likely open again tomorrow morning.

This is pretty funny, comical actually. The river floods and I have to scurry around moving everything away from the rivers edge. Then the river recedes and I quickly try to get things back to normal. Then, the river flood two days later and I'm scurrying around again like an idiot. This rainy summer, maybe I should just leave all of the tables tied down and all of the floatables on high ground. Sheesh!

This life without the ferry is getting old. Sometimes it's nice to come and go in the canoe everyday and it's not a bad thing to find yourself canoeing first thing on a Monday morning. It's also nice to be able to cut the grass on the back 40 and not have to worry about listening for the bell, the grass actually got cut! But it can be limiting. Although I would like to, I can't contemplate having guests. I can't get my bike to the mainland and it's a hassle moving trash or groceries or a guitar. The threat of rain everyday makes it so I can't just tie the canoe to the railing. I have to pull it up the steps and onto the landing so I can flip it over so it doesn't fill with rain water.

One of the biggest disappointments about all of the rain and high water this summer is that we didn't get to set up "Fish Camp". It was such a nice oasis last year to have the screen tent down there and we were hoping for more improvements this year but sadly the river has been too high. On another sad note, the willow tree that I planted at the bottom of the Island last year was taken by the beaver. I had it well protected with wire but the high water pushed it over and there was just enough trunk exposed for the beaver to snag it, bummer.

I finished painting Stan's new Stanchions and I put up my slack line like I did last year, the kids seem to like it.

I guess I may see some of you at the meeting tomorrow night. Right now, it looks like we can have the meeting on the Island.

Friday -- August 3, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.4     Water Temperature: 75


The ferry will be closed until further notice.

Wednesday -- August 1, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2     Water Temperature: 75


The ferry is closed today, more rain means more high water.

Tuesday -- July 31, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.8     Water Temperature: 75


There is so much to catch you up on. It's been a great month down here with lots of Island activity. I'm especially happy to see the kids enjoying the new paddle board. Normally, July can be a slow month but not this year. I guess there was a lot of pent-up demand after we were closed for so long.

It's great to have all of these kids here but all of this ferry pulling is making it hard for me to stay ahead of the chores. I had to order parts to fix the lawn mower but it's working fine now. We had another tree fall, that makes five this year, so I had to get the chainsaw out again. I've been working on painting the new stanchions for the ferry and I put a new shower head on the outdoor shower.

We had yet another week of high water last week, which is so weird for July that I can't tell you.

We were able to get the swimming float launched two weeks ago but right now there is a telephone pole-sized tree snagged on it.

Sunday-- July 29, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.8     Water Temperature: 75


The ferry is running again! Yeah!

There is no bell rope up right now so you might have to yell or ring the phone.

The river is still very silty and brown and the visibility in the water in nil but it's a nice day with low humidity. Plus, since the water was high, I was able to push the captains float back into the river. I placed it upriver of the arching silver maple so it's kind of stuck between two low-hanging trees, but it's nice to have it out in the water for a change.

Friday-- July 27, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.9     Water Temperature: 75


The ferry is closed and will be closed again tomorrow.

Sunday-- July 22, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.1     Water Temperature: 75


THE FERRY IS CLOSED!!

I guess that it isn't surprising to most of you that the ferry is closed today, considering the epic rains that we had yesterday. I'm not surprised either, but the sudden rise in the river did catch me off-guard a little bit. I didn't want to rush home last night and deal with the ferry in the dark and the rain so I waited until this morning and I paid for it.

I woke up at Mary's at 7 am and the river was already at 6 feet. It's not fun when your first thought of the day is imagining having to jump off the ferry onto a dock that is two feet under water. I jumped out of bed, skipped the coffee and headed straight down to the river. By the time I arrived, the bell rope had already been torn asunder and the river was creeping very close to the ferry rope. There was the usual, huge pile of branches and debris all tangled up with the ferry chains and being pushed hard against the ferry. Using the pole, I freed up the chains and braced myself for the high-water ferry-trip across the river.

I reached the dock on the Island, but I was reluctant to jump into the river and onto the submerged dock. I grabbed a cinder block off the ferry and stood it up vertically on the dock so that there was still a couple of inches of it above the water. I balanced myself on the block and placed another block two feet closer to the Island. Then I grabbed the bench off of the ferry and, while carefully balancing myself on the teetering blocks, I managed to slap the bench down, and voila, I was on the Island and my feet were dry. Amazing! I'm glad I made it over but I have to make sure that I continue to balance my dedication to this Club with my own personal safety.

Everything seemed alright on the Island. I had to rush over to my mini sailing dock to secure it and to drag the duck boards away from the shore. I also had a canoe down there that needed to be rescued. The biggest hassle might be that there is a lot of stuff collecting on the swim float that we launched last Sunday. There is actually a sixty-foot tree stuck to it right now.

Since the ferry is closed today, (speaking of dedication) I thought that maybe I could go off and do something off-Island but I think I better stay put. There is still so much water headed this way and they don't seem to have updated the predictions yet. The Monacacy River is in flood stage and the gage at Edwards ferry has already surpassed the earlier predictions. Thankfully, most of the rain fell in the east, so that the gages above the Monacacy are actually going down. But we can't relax, there is still more rain predicted all week, bummer.