Experiencing My Day Through the Five Senses

Experiencing My Day Through the Five Senses

It’s hard to believe that it is already July. Lately (since June 26th), I have been on the lake every day as the two new Resource Management interns have taken over my E. coli testing and macroinvertebrate sampling duties. I still sometimes get to do the lab work that pertains to the E. coli samples though, if my timing is right. I am hoping to be able to process the Lake 2 & 5 data in ArcGIS before I leave, but I still have a bit of lake to go before I can start that.

I have talked a lot about the lake throughout my blog posts, but what do I experience each day on the lake? Sure, I set up transect lines and take depth measurements but that is just the work that I do. As a result, I thought it might be interesting to summarize what I experience each day on the lake by going through each of my five main senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.


I would break down what I see into seven categories: weather, water, land, animals, planes, people, and trash.

I regularly look up at the sky to make sure I am accurately recording the weather on the GPS, so I see a variety of clouds. I also see haze, when present. The smoke from the Canadian wildfires can be seen very clearly on the lake, though it cannot be seen as well throughout the remainder of the park due to the tree coverage.

A hazy day on the lake. The air quality in the park was in the red zone this day (June 29th)

Naturally, since I am on a lake, I also see water. Sometimes I can see the bare bottom, sometimes I can see the plants that cover the bottom, and other times I cannot see the bottom at all. The water is brown and, in some places, is quite gross looking. You will not see me swimming in the lake. 

Water near a bank
Water inside the Lake 5 swimming area
There are also a number of sticks, logs, and down trees in the water that I have to maneuver around and make sure the rope doesn’t get caught on.
The lake has numerous down trees in it and branches that have come from those trees

I also see the land that surrounds the lake; this includes the banks, the floating docks and the areas near them, and the closed off area by the dam. For the most part tall grass, tall trees, and mountain laurel cover the land that is not meant to be easily accessed.

The dock of Cabin Camp 5 can be seen in the distance. The red buoys mark off the no-go zone as the dam is not far behind the buoy line

I see a variety of animals too! I regularly see painted turtles sitting on logs in the water. I have seen snapping turtles playing, small and medium fish swimming, and Canadian geese fleeing whenever I get too close. In addition, there are a number of flying critters that visit me on the boat and toads and frogs that greet me (and also flee from me) on land. Below is just a sampling of some of the animals I get to see. Unfortunately, a lot of the animals are too far away for a good picture with my phone camera.

A shy painted turtle
I see these two geese almost everyday
This toad was found hanging out by the canoe
This butterfly was on the Lake 5 dock

I also see a fair number of planes and helicopters. I think the park is in the flight path for many airplanes coming into one or both of the D.C. airports (Reagan and Dulles). In addition, with the Marine Corps base literally across the road I see military helicopters and planes fairly regularly.

I see people as well. Most of the people I see are cabin camp renters (which includes summer campers and wedding-goers) though some are also on the trail. Most people I see are curious as to why I am there and what I am doing, but they seem satisfied when I answer their questions.

And finally, and sadly, I see trash. A lot of it is fishing related; in particular there are a number of bobbers and fishing lines. I also have seen what might be called historic trash, but since it is historic it has to stay there.

A most likely historic plastic bottle


Honestly, there is not much that I smell. Even when it was hazy I did not smell smoke or campfire smell. One smell I get though is from the mud. Some areas near the bank are very muddy (protruding out numerous feet from the bank) and when I drive a stake into them the mud releases its scent. The best I can liken it to is sewage; it’s not pleasant.


I hear a lot of sounds, from nature, people, and planes. From nature I can hear birds singing, frogs and toads croaking, crickets chirping, wind rushing, and the mud gurgling once I stick a stake into it. From people, I hear trail hikers and guns and large artillery shot off at Marine Corps Base Quantico. And from planes, I hear jet engines, helicopter blades, and propellers. I captured some of the sounds that I hear almost every day on the water. I tried to cut out the parts where it is me making a ton of noise, however you can still hear me rustling in the background..

Birds and crickets

(The underlying noise is crickets with a variety of birds calling over them. It also has the occasional frog croaking)

Crickets and occasional bird

(Highlights crickets with some birds occasionally calling)

Toads/frogs and gunfire

(I get to hear a variety of toads/frogs on the lake. The pounding noise in the background is gunfire)


(The splashing sound in the middle is me taking the manual depth gauge out of the water)

A minute on the lake

(A minute of what I hear regularly on the lake, though not all day as by the afternoon most of the sounds have softened. Contains birds, toads/frogs, crickets, and gunfire)


Thankfully, I don’t taste much as I strive to keep the water (which contains E. coli) out of my mouth. I will say though when it is very hazy I wear a mask to keep my lungs from getting too full of particulate matter and other junk, and since Virginia is typically hot and humid in the summer, I do sweat a bit in the mask and sometimes taste sweat.


Most of what I touch is related to the work that I do, particularly the rope, but often that rope gets gooey mud on it, or seagrass, or even fish eggs, which I either avoid touching or pull off the rope.
The orange dots are fish eggs. The fish need to lay their eggs in better places
In addition, since I often have the rope over me while I work it frequently drips onto me leaving me and my clothes wet. I find that the rope being over my lap is the easiest way to keep the boat in line but it comes at the cost of my legs getting wet. 
Me with the wet transect rope line over my lap

In addition, just like I see land creatures I also often feel them. Typically it is flys of various types and spiders that like to land and crawl on me. Needless to say they are quickly shooed off. In addition, I have been whacked by sticks from down trees and mountain laurel branches as I do not realize they are there or I don’t stop or maneuver the boat out of the way in time quickly enough. Finally, just as I can sometimes hear the wind, I can also feel it. One gust even took my hat and I had to fetch it from the water; at least the hat floated.

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