CARETAKER'S LOG


Friday -- January 18, 2019
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 38


Here we go again. Verizon is planning to be here later today to deliver our fiber-optic cable. I'm not very optimistic that it will happen. I went back to see when it was that they first decided to attempt this installation. Coincidentally, the first appointment that I had with them was almost a year ago to the day! This saga began on January 20 2018.

Thanks to everyone that came out for our flood clean-up day that we had here last Saturday. I didn't send my volunteer email to the entire membership but most of those that got the email were here, awesome. It made me so happy to get the canoes and other things put away and secured before the snowfall came.

The snow was a nice change, it was nice to have the snow covering up all of that ugly brown mud. Plus, we got to ski on the towpath!

More crappy weather headed this way over the weekend but so far no flooding is predicted, so I guess the ferry will be open.

I know that many of you must have seen the beautiful painting that was on the front page of the Islander, painted by our own Penny Doolittle. I was so glad that the painting made it into the Islander and I was so impressed by Penny's work. It was so good that I could easily identify the Club members in the painting. I was lucky enough to run into Penny the other day. She has been missing her trips to the Island, like the rest of you she is frustrated by this record flooding. On a sad note, her husband, Dick, hasn't been doing well and is now living at a nursing home. Hang in there Dick!

The weather has been challenging but the cold has brought us more winter waterfowl, including a pair of hooded mergansers, sweet.

Saturday -- January 1, 2019
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.9     Water Temperature: 38


Ferry is open.

Friday -- January 11, 2019
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.1     Water Temperature: 39


The ferry is closed today but we will be open tomorrow. First time in almost a month! Since the ferry will be open, we will have a chance to do a post-flood clean-up. The river was over 11 feet on December 16 so there is definitely some clean-up and organizing to do.

TOMORROW MORNING 10AM UNTIL 1 PM ISLAND CLEAN-UP!!

And if you are a reader of this log and not a member, I invite you to come down tomorrow too, only if you want to work that is.

I've been enjoying having the birds at the feeders and the woodpeckers are very active at the suet feeder. They really seem to need that extra fatty food in the winter when there are very few insects to eat. In the old days when I first started to feed the birds, I had to go to the butcher to ask for a slab of fat to feed the woodpeckers, but now they have pre-packaged suet blocks that you can buy at the bird store. The store-bought suet also has added seeds and nuts for a gourmet bird snack. The problem is that the squirrels and raccoons know about these treats and will stop at nothing to get them. Thankfully the geniuses at the bird store came up with a weapon to deter these mammalian thieves. They added hot cayenne pepper to the mix which doesn't bother the birds but it's too spicy for the mammal's taste buds. Or so we thought. The other morning I found the suet feeder broken open and the suet cake was gone. I repaired the feeder, made it more animal proof with wires and rehung it outside my window. Then, to my surprise, this morning there was not feeder at all! Wow, I guess the raccoons are from Thailand and like spicy food, or they are just so hungry that they don't care how much it burns. I know that it had to be the raccoons and not the squirrels since all this activity happened at night and the squirrels are strictly diurnal. I looked all over to find the empty suet feeder but so far no luck. Maybe the raccoon tried to wash it off and the feeder is at the bottom of the river.

Thursday -- January 3, 2019
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.4     Water Temperature: 45


Another huge sycamore tree has fallen. Another victim of this constantly high water. This tree was the one that was the closest to the Maryland shore upstream from the ferry, about half way to the top of the Island. It was sort of apart from the main Island and when the water is high, this tree would become it's own island surrounded by water. When it fell, it fell towards the Maryland shore reaching halfway across the channel. It fell on Sunday just before dark, and amazingly I was up at the top of the Island when it fell and I was able to watch it crash into the river. It was so strange, I heard some strange pounding noise so I looked across to the towpath to see several people walking and biking. No one seemed to be doing any pounding, but then I notice the giant tree start to slowly move downward. Then the pounding, or rather the sound of roots breaking, got really loud and I watched helplessly as the tree succumbed to gravity and splashed into the river. I wasn't the only one stunned by the event and I waved to several joggers and bikers that had also witnessed the sad spectacle. Now I worry about what is going to happen if this monster decides to start floating downstream and toward our ferry and all of our ropes and cables. It's tempting to paddle out there and begin trimming off all of it's extended branches.

Speaking of trees, we lost a couple more small trees to the beaver family. I don't mind when the beaver chew up the trees that are already fallen. I like it, in fact, that they are helping us to cut up the hackberry tree that fell a few months ago. But when they go and take down the young box elders that I was hoping would someday be shade trees down at fish camp, it just makes my blood boil. The troubling part is that even though the trees were protected by chicken wire the beaver still got 'em. When the river is high the chicken wire is submerged and the darn beaver can simply swim up for a easy tree-snack with no wires in sight.

It's remarkable to realize just how powerful these beaver are. I was out there this morning to discover the tracks from last night's work. It was evident by all of the wood chips on the ground that the beaver had chewed through a branch that was six inches in diameter and about eight feet long. Like I mentioned before, the ground has been cleared by the flooding so it was easy to see in the fresh sand which direction that the beaver headed. The beaver tried to drag it toward the Maryland shore but after about thirty feet of dragging, the beaver gave up and I could see exactly where he/she gave up and just chewed the bark off of it where it was. It's hard to imagine a beaver dragging a branch that must have been close to it's own weight. I might have to get up super early tomorrow to see if I can catch these overzealous workaholics in action.

Wednesday -- January 2, 2019
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.6     Water Temperature: 45


The ferry is closed. It seems like soon I will be posting only on the rare occasion that the ferry is open. Ha Ha. Sadly it doesn't look like the ferry will be opening anytime soon.

The good thing is, why would anyone want to come to this flood-swept, dreary island anyway? The island has a strange, tidy look of having just been swept. Except for a few places where the driftwood has been lodged behind a picnic table or tree, the Island is swept clean. No weeds, no fallen leaves and no fallen branches littered everywhere. Now, when I look out I see nothing but brown mud, everywhere.

I bought the club three new door mats for Christmas. They look great with the new screen doors. Hopefully you will all be able to see them someday.

I had a nice treat this morning. A solitary female, common golden-eye duck swam by. It must be January.

Thursday -- December 27, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.8     Water Temperature: 45


The river is going down but with the rain coming on Friday it doesn't look like it will get below five feet for the weekend. Bummer. I guess we'll just leave the ferry where it is floating out in the middle of the river. The receding water did expose a long stretch of the the board walk to the ferry. Of course it's covered with a deep layer of mud, but unlike the mud from the June flood, this mud is layered with the wet leaves of Autumn. Not worse to shovel, just different.

We had a wonderful meeting/Club Christmas party at Vicki Judson's. Thank you Vicki! The exciting part was that the Club surprised me with a special 15-year anniversary bonus! I was really surprised since my 15 year anniversary was back in August 2017. No matter, it's the sentiment that counts, and I really appreciate the gesture. Thanks everyone!

One little caretaker fact. Of the top 99 floods since recorded history, I have been living at Sycamore Island for 18 of those high-water events. Luckily for me, the highest flood that I've seen was only the 31st highest on record.

Monday -- December 24, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 7.7     Water Temperature: 45


Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy, non flooded, New Year!!

Thursday -- December 20, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.7     Water Temperature: 45


It looks like the ferry might be closed for the rest of the year!!?

I just finished flipping all of the canoes that we pulled out of the shed so that they won't fill with rain water later today. Then I'll have to flip them back over after the rain, so that they can float up with the eminent flood that will follow the rain. Oh brother.

The last flood caused some minor damage. One of the anchor points on the cable came loose. It's the back-up cable that holds the pulleys for the ferry chains. The cable was hanging real low yesterday so this morning I connected a new come-along to the cable and I was able to crank it back up to where it was. Probably not a permanent solution but with the coming high water I'm glad that I got it out of the way at least.

I started to put the birdseed out again, and the suet for the woodpeckers. Nice to have such a variety of birds at the feeder. there are also red-necked grebes in the channel.

Saturday -- December 15, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.5     Water Temperature: 45


The ferry is closed.

What the heck!

Sunday -- December 9, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 45


Alright! They installed the fiber-optic cable and we now have high-speed internet and limitless WIFI possibilities!

Just kidding, the technician showed up on Friday and he had the same dumbfounded look that the three previous technicians had when they realized that the phone service was out on an island. We may be making progress though. They said that they would send out a surveyor next week. I'd never heard mention of a surveyor before so maybe that's a good sign. Will keep you posted.

Totally dead here today but it looks like a few people signed in yesterday.

Thursday -- December 6, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.9     Water Temperature: 45


The ferry is officially open and running normally again! Hallelujah!

Sadly, the swimming, fishing, and canoeing season is over, but it's still nice, and worth the trip, to come over the Island in the wintertime. There is a space heater in the kitchen if you want to get warmed up while you make some hot tea or cocoa(bring your own cocoa). There is also a woodstove in the clubhouse if you feel like making a fire, gotta love that smell of wood smoke in the fresh winter air.

I had to winterize the plumbing yesterday, so there is no running water in the kitchen. However, the men's room has been converted into our "winter bathroom", so you can get potable water in there

Tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow is the day that Verizon promises to come down here and replace our old copper phone wires with the new, state-of-the-art, fiber-optic cable. This will be a big change and my internet will be much faster and maybe there will be better WIFI in the clubhouse. Verizon tells me that I should be excited but I'm keeping a damper on my enthusiasm for now. There are some major obstacles (two roads, a canal and a river) that Verizon needs to hurdle before we get new service out here on the Island. Tomorrow will be their forth trip out here and so far they haven't been able to overcome those challenges. The other thing I'm concerned about is that with copper, the phone and internet work even if the power goes out. With fiber optics no dice. When the backup battery dies you're screwed.

We had the woodstove vendor out here yesterday to give us an estimate for a new stove. After what I heard, and considering the frequency of use, maybe we can get by with the slightly faulty stove that we have now.

BTW, I posted some new pictures on the Canal By Canoe website. Go to canalbycanoe.com to read our blog all about the Potomac River and C&O Canal. You can also subscribe to the blog if you want.

Tuesday -- December 4, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.4     Water Temperature: 45


The ferry is closed again today but there is hope that the ferry will be running again on Thursday of Friday.

We finally had the workfest on Sunday. We had somewhat of a skeleton crew but I was surprised at how many people actually knew that the workfest was happening. I learned that an announcement email did finally go out on Friday or Saturday but apparently I am not on that email list, so I had no idea that the members got the notice. I'm glad that they did and we had a rather successful work day. It was nice to have Stan, the club captain, here to help with getting the floats onto shore. There are still a few leaves to rake up but all of the canoes have been bailed out and we stacked up a respectable amount of firewood.

I'd like to send out a great big THANK YOU to George and Shelly Malusky. Sunday was their last day as serving as the entertainment committee. They took over the grilling and filled the big shoes of George and Marcia Loeb way back in 2003. In 2004 George brought down our first big grill, the Smoker Joe. That original grill wore out and George brought down another Smoker Joe last year. I'd say that that's a pretty good run, to wear out a grill and need a second before you retire. Way to go George and Shelly!!

So we are now looking for a new grill master to take over for the Malusky's.

Monday -- December 3, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.4     Water Temperature: 45


The ferry is closed and it looks like we will be above five feet most of week.

Friday -- November 30, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.4     Water Temperature: 45


HEAR YE! HEAR YE! There WILL be a workday here on Sunday come hell or high water! The river is high and so are we but we're having the worfest regardless. The fun begins at 9:00 am. Bring a rake, bring a dish. See you Sunday!!

Wednesday -- November 28, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.3     Water Temperature: 45


There is no rain expected between now and Sunday, so we hope that the river will go down enough by Sunday so that we can have our work day. I think we are going to have it even if the river is a little above the cut-off of five feet. Sometimes you have to make exceptions.

We have been working on bailing out the Club canoes and kayaks and many boats got put away by various members that pitched in and volunteered back in October. There are still over a dozen or so canoes that need bailing so hopefully we can tackle that job on Sunday. I tried Richards idea of siphoning the water out of the canoes with a piece of garden hose, like the way we used to siphon gas out of our dads car back in the seventies. It worked pretty good but it's kind of slow compared to the other method of dipping a five-gallon bucket into it and bailing it out gallons at a time. Plus, when you siphon, you can't help but get some of that nasty water in your mouth.

Monday -- November 26, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 7.4     Water Temperature: 45


I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. It's sad that no one was able to visit the Island yesterday, Sunday, it was such a nice and sunny day, for a change. I didn't expect that arctic blast that we got on Thanksgiving night. It got down into the twenties that night and, even though it was not part of my holiday plan, I had to paddle over to the Island to make sure that the pipes didn't freeze and burst.

Yes, lately, for the last three weeks in fact, I've been coming and going in a canoe. It's not unusual, these days, to see me by my van at the top of the hill, changing into my river boots and putting on my life jacket before I trudge down the hill.

It doesn't look like we are going to have any kind of meaningful workfest this fall. We hope to have everyone here on Sunday December 2nd, but that's a big maybe at this point. We are also looking for someone to run the grill that day since I don't think that George can make it. The good news is that some of the heavy work of bringing in the docks has been done. Since the river was high this morning, I had a solo workfest and I was able to haul the docks all the way on shore with the help of the rising river. So now, two of the four docks are in. The canoe dock is going to take some work and we will have to wait until the river goes down before we can free it from the driftwood and bring it ashore. The swim float also needs to come in.

I've been working on the leaves as well and I've been using our new leaf blower to keep the gutters clean and the decks and roofs cleared off.

I'm almost done hanging the new screen doors. They look awesome! What an improvement.

It has been pretty lonely and quiet down here and not much wildlife to keep me company either. I don't have any birds at the bird feeder since I had to quit putting out the bird seed. The seeds attracted a rat that got washed up here during a flood, so we had to put a stop to that. There was a large doe here one afternoon, and there is evidence of a beaver coming here at night. (the beaver cut down the small willow tree that was just downstream of the ferry) Most of the cormorants have departed and so far not many wintering birds. Strangely, our local geese have not been on the Island lately either.

Thursday -- November 15, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.3     Water Temperature: 55


It's snowing! I sure wish that we had the workfest last Sunday, then we could have gotten all the leaves before the got wet.

Sadly, the workfest will have to be postponed again since the river will be swollen for a few more days. No workfest this Sunday.

The plan now is to have the work day on the Island on December 2, since many volunteers will be away on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. That happens to be the first day on Hanukkah, so I hope that doesn't interfere with turnout. Workfest in December, oh brother.

Saturday -- November 10, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.9     Water Temperature: 55


The ferry is closed and oh yeah, the work-fest has been postponed. Sorry that there was not an email notification but the work-fest is not happening tomorrow. Please plan to be down here on next Sunday, the 18th on November. Thanks!

Monday -- November 5, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.8     Water Temperature: 55


Update, as of 1:30 today the ferry is closed. The river is 5.1 feet now and rising to over six feet later on. That was a lot of rain last night and it looks like Sycamore Island will not be the place to go on your election-day holiday. Sorry.



The ferry has re-opened, at least for the time being. The river is predicted to go up again tomorrow.

Saturday -- November 3, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.3     Water Temperature: 53


The ferry is closed today because of high water.