Sunday -- September 24, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.7 Water Temperature: 78
It's been super busy down here this week. The river and weather conditions are perfect, plus the kids in Montgomery County didn't have school on Thursday and the DC schools were closed on Friday. I keep a list of school closings in Montgomery County so I was prepared for the onslaught on Thursday but I was really surprised to arrive back on the Island on Friday and see the place swarming with kids before noon. Mary and I are really enjoying having all of these really cute kids here and they are all so helpful and well behaved, mostly. The best part is when we're all on the ferry going back to the mainland and one of the kids says that it was the best day of their life or that Sycamore Island is their favorite place in the whole world.
I don't have any wild animal stories to share. It seems that our humming birds have left for warmer climes or maybe they aren't using our feeder since there are literally thousands of jewel weed flowers for them to feed on. On the Island we have the yellow jewel weed almost exclusively, with maybe one or two of the orange, spotted jewel weed. Along the towpath it is the exact opposite with a profusion of the spotted jewel weed growing in the canal prism for as far as the eye can see and hardly any yellow ones. The spotted ones are very pretty but they do not grow as tall and they seem to prefer that wet soggy ground. The other name for the jewl weed is touch-me-not, and yesterday I had my first seed pod explode in my hand when I touched it. Flowers going to seed, it must be Autumn.
I'm hoping that this new warm spell will reinvigorate the fishing. I haven't had very much luck this summer but someone caught a 15-incher last week, so there is still hope for me to improve my season's catch.
Thursday -- September 21, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.8 Water Temperature: 75
It looks like we're headed for a beautiful weekend. Skies are clear, the air is warm and it looks like the swimming season isn't quite over yet. I thought that our swimming season had come to an abrupt end last month so it is such a pleasure to have some summer weather as we head into Fall.
Tuesday -- September 5, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9 Water Temperature: 79
Regatta, regatta, regatta! Things are quiet now but what a raucous time we had on the Island yesterday. Just like last year we had an amazing turn-out, I counted between 80 and 100 people on the Island that day. Everyone had a fabulous time and we have Mia and Steve Holland to thank for doing another excellent job of hosting the biggest day of the year on the Island. They brought the food, the drinks, the ice, the eggs for the egg toss, the ping pong balls for the canoe pick-up, the water balloons, the bullhorn, and anything else you might need for an A-plus type of regatta, incredible. And then they cleaned everything up before they left! Thank you Mia and Steve!
We started with the three-legged race, then we did the egg toss and then it was time for infamous race around the Island. There were so many racers that we ran out of boats and we had to have two separate heats of 15 boats each. What a sight it was, canoes everywhere and spectators on the mainland, on the ferry and on the Island, all cheering and waving. After the ping pong ball pick-up we started the grill and the kids started the water gun battle. All of the members pitched in to work the grill and to get the food out while I pulled the ferry back and forth all day. Luckily, there were some kids that wanted to help with the ferry, I don't think I could have done it without them. We all had such a good time that I didn't even mind scraping all of the mud off of the bathroom floors and doing all of the other cleaning up that I had to do this morning. Lets hope that Mia and Steve volunteer to run the regatta again next year!
Speaking of large crowds, I think we set some sort of record for the month of August. There were 11 sign-in sheets for the month and they were all filled in, which means that we had close to 400 people visiting the Island in one month!
Monday -- August 28, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9 Water Temperature: 84
What a time we had at the fishing derby! I don't know how they do it but George and Shelly know how to deliver a good time and some good fishing. No turkey bacon this time but they brought the donuts and the fishing trophies, fancy cigar boxes filled with shiny new lures! We got everything set up and then we ate donuts and drank coffee while we waited for all of the competitors to show up.
It was a slow start but eventually we had enough people for some real competition. I wasn't here when the fishing boats returned with their catches but I was on the captains float for what I think was probably the most magical moment of the day. After George was done chumming the waters with chicken livers, and after he had helped all of the kids get their kid-sized fishing rods in order, we all ventured down to the captains float to see what the kids could catch. One of our most active new waitlister families, the Wales, were there with son William and daughter Catherine. I guess they are about 11 and 9 respectively. Catherine had her little purple rod with a big hunk of chicken liver on it which was so big that her dad said that it looked like a roast beef sandwich dangling from the hook. They were fishing pretty hard for a while until finally Catherine hooked a fish! Her rod was so short that it didn't bend, but we knew it was a big fish because her reel was whizzing loudly from the fish pulling on the drag.
Luckily, George was there to coach her, and her older brother was there, ready with the net. Catherine's eyes were as big a saucers as she reeled in the big 17-inch catfish, the first fish that she had ever caught in her life! I quickly ran for the aquarium so that we could admire the catch before we let it go again. Catherine and her brother posed with the fish for the camera but Catherine was reluctant to be the one holding the slimy thing for the picture, so William did the honors. Eventually, Catherine was able to shore up her courage and she allowed herself to touch the fish, but only with her one index finger, so cute. Congratulations to Catherine and to all of the other participants, and a big thank you to George an Shelly!
Monday -- August 21, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1 Water Temperature: 84
The deadline for the September Islander was yesterday so I'll have to make this quick. I didn't want to send in my log until I had a chance to write about what it was like to watch the (almost) total solar eclipse from Sycamore Island. There were about twenty of us on or around the Island when the eclipse started and luckily nobody came or went between 1:30 and 3:30. Mary and I were down at the bottom of the Island trying to stay in the shade yet still able to see the sun. We didn't notice any changes in the behavior of the birds and animals and the fish were definitely not biting. The light began to change and we watched it through a viewing box made from a cereal box. Thankfully, someone had two extra pairs of safe-viewing glasses and we were able to get a very clear look of the moon passing in front of the Sun. Soon afterwards, the wind picked up and a sudden thundershower blew in. Some folks made a run for it and left the Island when they heard the thunder. Others waited it out and soon the sun was shining again and we saw a small rainbow as I took them across on the ferry.
I don't think it has anything to do with the eclipse but there are a lot of spider webs on the Island right now. Some of them are huge, 36 inch diameter, webs, spun across the trail one after the other. They are amazing structures and I felt bad destroying at least big webs on my way to the bottom of the Island with the mower.
Our resident Canada geese have vanished. They were here everyday for several months and now they seem to be keeping their distance and staying off of the Island. It's funny, it took me over a week to realize that they were no longer underfoot.
The paw paw fruit are just about ripe and there are still a few of them on the Island. Some of the fruit have been harvested by members but I saw a remaining few next to the swim dock while I was swimming. They were near the waters edge, right next to the deep purple blossoms of a NY iron weed.
I replaced a missing grab rope on one of the blue kayaks and I took another stab at repairing the other red Club kayak. I used some plastic weld that was recommended to me and then I'll cover that with some epoxy for rigidity. We'll see. I also installed two new signs. One for the Women's room and one for the men's room.
Sunday -- August 20, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2 Water Temperature: 84
The river is clearing up and it's the clearest it has been in a week. The temperature of the water is creeping up but the recent rains have helped to keep the river water from getting up into the 90's like it usually does in August.
Waitlister, Jared F., brought me a baseball cap from his company Clean Choice Energy. It's a really nice hat, but what's important is the noble mission of the company, helping people switch to renewable energy for a cleaner world with less greenhouse gasses! Jared and his company are so committed to this cause in fact, that they are actually helping this Club by paying the small difference in costs for renewable energy. I'm so proud that the Club is using renewable energy and it only seems right to do so since our mission is to enjoy and protect the Potomac River. Check out their website: https://cleanchoiceenergy.com and help save the planet! Thanks Jared!
There was a large snapping turtle in the canal on Friday. It was cool to watch it from the bridge above. Amazingly, it's head and neck were almost as long as it's shell. I paddle up to Ruppert Island at sunset the other night. There was a heron a nd some mallards and, surprisingly, a little fawn feeding near the bank. It seems really late in the season to see a young deer but maybe they can have multiple litters in a summer. Makes me wonder just how many deer are over there at Rupperts at any given time.
Friday -- August 11, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6 Water Temperature: 78
Warning, no one has volunteered to run the ferry tomorrow afternoon, so if you come down be prepared to pitch in.
It turns out that I was wrong and it wasn't Rembrandt Builders that cut the tree on the trail. My next best guess is that it was cut by the park service. It's nice to have a Club Captain with connections to the park service.
Monday -- August 7, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.1 Water Temperature: 80
Busy day on the Island yesterday. After a very slow start, the ferry had to kick into overdrive to get through the afternoon and evening. It was a fun day though, and we were entertained by the members of the Outta Scope Band, fiddle, bass and drum. It was really magical to hear the instruments with the sound of the cicadas keeping the rhythm. We also had more fun with the aquarium. Young Caleb had the good fortune to catch a tiny catfish and we kept it alive in the aquarium all day for other kids, and adults, to look at. It looked exactly like an adult catfish but it was only an inch long! I know that some members thought that my aquariums were just junk lying around, but I'm so glad that I resisted the push to have them thrown away.
The story today is RAIN. It seems rather unusual to have this kind of rain at this time of year. This day totally reminds me of an early Autumn day in September. The rain will mess up the swimming and fishing but it doesn't look like it will flood the river and cause the ferry to close.
Sunday -- August 6, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5 Water Temperature: 78
It is a wonderfully quiet Sunday morning. It's cool(I'm wearing a fleece in August), cloudy, and no trace of the strong winds that we've had to endure recently. The river is calm and low too, compared with last Sunday's volatility, and we're back down to normal summer water levels. There is a Club member hosting an all-day board meeting in the Clubhouse but other than that the bell has been quiet too. What a difference a week makes.
But I'm afraid it won't last. Soon everyone will catch on that this is the nicest weather that we've ever had here in D.C. in August and they will be marching down the hill in droves.
We had fun here last Thursday. One of the new waitlist members brought his extended family down for the first time and they really made an afternoon of it. One of the fun things they did was to catch minnows from the captain's dock and put them into one of the aquariums that I have stashed here. I was glad to have an excuse to bring out the aquarium again and the kids really enjoyed watching the minnows up close. I decided to leave the aquarium out there so that it will be ready to use during the Fishing Derby, which is only three weeks away.
I repaired the toilet in the ladies room. It was leaking at the bowl so I removed it and installed a new wax ring to seal up the leak. Then, with the help of waitlister Chris M., I reinstalled the toilet. I think it's good now.
Wednesday -- August 2, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.3 Water Temperature: 78
The river is muddy and running fast but that didn't keep people from coming down here for a swim yesterday. It has been surprisingly busy for the last two week days, considering how ugly the river looks right now. The river has been going up and down like a roller coaster but thankfully it never flooded or even reached five feet from all of that rain from last week. It's very rare to have the river this high during what is normally the season for drought.
The giant tree that had fallen across the trail has now been cut and the path is no longer blocked. We're not sure yet who was responsible for cutting the tree. I called the county and Stan called the park service but I have a feeling that it may have been our friends and neighbors from Rembrandt Builders that live at the Sycamore Store. Those guys can do anything.
Important River News!
Small victory for paddlers. The Coast Guard shelves plan to shut down Potomac near Trump resort. Story in NY Times.
Thursday -- July 25, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1 Water Temperature: 84
There is a very large tree that has fallen across the trail up by the old trolley trestle. The trail is passable but just barely. You might have to crawl or you could probably limbo your way under the tree. It's the same giant oak that fell a couple of years ago. We have been able to walk under it all this time but now it is squarely in the way. I'm going to try to clear a path around it.
Important River News!
The Coast Guard wants to close a popular section of our Potomac River for security reasons. Get the details at the link below.
Please visit the Canoe Cruisers website at
for information about how to submit your comments.
Thursday -- July 20, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9 Water Temperature: 88
It may be hot but it's always cooler on the Island! The river is warming up too, but it's nice and low and perfect for swimming.
We're down to three working Club kayaks. One of the red ones that we tried to patch last fall is leaking again and I had to take it out of service. Maybe someone in the Club can figure out how to patch these plastic boats. We also have a Club canoe that has been broken for a few years. It has a hole that needs patching as well. On the up side, some of the older members are forfeiting their canoe racks and donating their old canoes to the Club. So, no shortage of boats by any means.
We've been attracting a lot of birds with the new humming bird feeders and the sunflower seeds. The other thing that we have that is attracting the birds is a stead source of water. It seems that the water coming from our heat pump/air conditioner has become a favorite of our resident birds. It is so cute to watch the humming birds take a little shower as the water flows from the gutter and splashes off of the bushes below. I have also witnessed the chicadees drinking water from the broken stalks of the jewel weed. It seems that after I cut the weeds, a bit of water collects in the chamber at the top and the birds can perch there and take a drink. Amazing.
Thursday -- July 13, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2 Water Temperature: 84
We had the monthly meeting here on the Island last night. We did not have a quorum but 9 of us all sat around the picnic table and had the meeting anyway. John Noble ran the meeting in Richard's absence and when he asked me for a caretaker's report I was sort of at a loss for words. I wasn't sure how much detail about my duties the member's wanted to hear and I certainly didn't want to bring up a subject that might extended the meeting any more than necessary. What I didn't say then, that I want to say now is that, generally speaking, the Club buildings and facilities are in good working order and there is nothing urgent that we need to deal with. The things that are less than great, and that will need to be addressed, are the eight screen doors on the deck and the railings on the ferry.
Thanks to Larry for his nice words about the trails being clear and thanks to Meredith for being so concerned about me working too hard pulling the ferry all day.
I restocked the first-aid kit. After I was stung by the bees last week I went to reach for some benedryl and there was none to be had. I also noticed that we were low on band-aids and advil. I bought some more toilet paper too, it's important that we not run out of TP. And for the record, we have never run out of TP in my 14 years 11 months as caretaker.
The corner where we store the canoe and kayak paddles was total chaos yesterday, with paddles stuck everywhere and every which way. I decided to install a new rack for the kayak paddles. It's a horizontal rack under the window there and hopefully it will help to keep the paddles organized.
Monday -- July 10, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6 Water Temperature: 82
Well the Club certainly got their money's worth out of me yesterday. There was a steady flow of revelers on the ferry all day, right up until dark. We had swimmers, fishermen, a group of play readers, a group of ukulele players, Bannockburn pool board members, and their families, and lots of kids. It was great to see all of those kids out in canoes, scattered all over the river and having a good time.
I went up on the roof to clean the gutters and I found a black snake curled up in the gutter above my living room. Then I went to clean the gutters over the deck and I got stung by a wasp, right on the tip of my nose! Then I went to cut the grass and I got stung twice by the ground-nesting bees that I ran over with the mower. Holy Cow it must be summer.