As part of our 50th Anniversary celebration, we are collecting and sharing the stories of people connected to the islands, whether they are park guests, former residents or former park employees.
This is the ninth in our series called “Lakeshore Logbook,” a collection of memories provided by former National Park Service employees.
Living and working in the park on a day to day basis, they’ve experienced a lot to be sure. We hope you enjoy their perspectives.
Sheree Peterson worked as a seasonal ranger starting in 1978.
“I came to work at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (APIS) in May 1978, as a seasonal naturalist. I had just graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in wildlife management, and had worked at Isle Royale National Park for the previous two summers. APIS was a fairly new park, and no one that I knew had even heard of it. But I loved Lake Superior, and headed north in my white Rambler station wagon. I can still remember the first time that I turned off of U.S. Hwy 2 and headed north on Hwy 13 to Bayfield, looking out over the big lake.
I was first stationed on Stockton Island, where I was told that there was a cabin that I would share with Beth Burkhart, another naturalist who had been at the park for a year or two. When I was dropped off at Presque Isle by the Kiwatin, I discovered that our cabin addition was only framed in. We lived and worked out of a nylon tent for a month until the building was finished. It was a very cold, foggy month and I remember wondering if I would ever get warm again. The lowest point was finding out that I was being charged rent for the tent. We were very happy when we were finally able to move into the finished cabin.
Presque Isle was a lovely spot and the dock brought in many overnight boaters and campers. Some visited frequently and knew the islands well. I learned a lot from them and we had fun socializing. Special boaters were Everett and Eva on a large power boat called the Adventurer.
My job included giving guided hikes to visitors who arrived daily aboard the excursion boat Sea Queen, giving campfire programs, and other interpretive activities. Julian Bay was a beautiful place to explore and the bog plants were amazing.
I organized a blueberry pancake breakfast there one early August morning. I carried in a camp stove, cooking utensils, and ingredients. An enthusiastic group of campers and boaters joined me and we ate pancakes loaded with blueberries that we had just picked on the tombolo.
Young Adult Conservation Corps (YACC) enrollees were camped all summer in the Presque Isle campground doing trail work and other projects. There were also several researchers staying on the island for long periods while doing some of the baseline surveys of birds, soils, vegetation, etc. It was an interesting little community on the island and we enjoyed many campfire gatherings and learned a lot from each other.
When fall came, I ended up staying in Bayfield and working seasonally at APIS for four years. At that time, park headquarters was located in a 1960s ranch-style house at Little Sand Bay. Roy and Irene Hokenson were still living in their home next to their fishery building. I remember watching them pick apples from their tree on a beautiful fall day. Irene had a bushel basket balanced on her head while Roy stood on a ladder picking apples and setting them in the basket. Later I was invited to share a piece of warm apple pie around their kitchen table.
When the old courthouse building renovation was completed in Bayfield, I helped move the APIS administrative files, equipment, and furniture into the new headquarters. That fall, I designed and painted the APIS float in the Apple Festival Parade that featured the park’s new home. With a new auditorium in the headquarters building, I began giving interpretive programs there, as well as at the Red Cliff Campground, Apostle Islands View Campground, and Washburn’s Memorial Park. Off-season, I helped with research and planning projects. In 1980, I received a Special Achievement Award for cataloging the park’s collection of historic photographs.
It was my privilege to get to know and work with several people at APIS who left this earth much too soon: Lee Anderson (Chief Ranger), Phil Hastings (Chief Naturalist), Tim Carpenter (Seasonal Ranger), Phil Johanik (Dispatcher), Brent McGuinn (Seasonal Ranger), and Mary (Torbick) Beedlow (Dispatcher). They were fine people.
One winter, I attended a CPR course held at APIS headquarters. There I met a guy named Phil Peterson, we married in 1983, and continue to live in Bayfield. I have worked in the field of public history over the years, including 10 years at Madeline Island Museum. As a private contractor, I was privileged to transcribe the original lighthouse logbooks for Raspberry and Long islands, and to write a history of Camp Stella on Sand Island.
My husband and I continue to enjoy the Apostle Islands, mostly by kayak. I never tire of looking at the beautiful layers of brownstone revealed along the island shorelines, red-breasted mergansers herding their little ones to safe places among the boulders, otter families playing on Sand Island, and peaceful secluded beaches.”
We would like to thank Sheree for her entry in the Lakeshore Logbook. We look forward to sharing more Logbook entries with you in the coming weeks. You can find the whole series here.