Lakeshore Logbook – Merrith Baughman

Merrith Baughman
Merrith Baughman

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 13th 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.

Merrith Baughman worked in the national lakeshore from May 1991 to August 1994 as an Interpretive Park Ranger. She says every season was different: Season 1 at the Bayfield Visitor Center, season 2 at Little Sand Bay and season 3 relief ranger on Raspberry and Stockton Islands.  

I was so lucky! I worked from May – August but because I was hired in the old cooperative program I was technically a permanent employee while attending University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. The park did not have a permanent position when I graduated but my experience at APIS got me hired into a permanent full time position at the Gateway Arch (then Jefferson National Expansion Memorial). It was quite a change to go from working on the islands to working (mostly underground) in downtown St. Louis.

What is the coolest thing you did in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (APIS) as part of your job?

I loved the summer I spent on the islands. Each one was so special. I enjoyed taking visitors on tours of Raspberry Island Lighthouse.

visitors at Raspberry Island Light
Visitors at Raspberry Island Light

I equally enjoyed taking visitors on hikes to Julian Bay on Stockton Island. But my favorite times were probably when I just had a chance to go hike by myself – listen to birds, eat some blueberries, and enjoy “island time.”

visitors walking on Julian Bay beach
Visitors walking on Julian Bay beach

What is the most fun experience you had in the park? 

Well…not part of my job but my husband and I spent 5 days camping on Rocky Island after our wedding in August 1994. After the craziness of the wedding it was definitely a treat to get away from everyone and just enjoy being outside together.  Best honeymoon! 

shoreline of Rocky Island looking south toward the dock
Shoreline of Rocky Island looking south toward the dock

Please share a memorable experience you had in the park. 

I was at Little Sand Bay when a new Boston whaler type patrol boat was delivered. The LE asked if I wanted to go out on his test run of the boat. I didn’t know how rough the lake was because we encountered 8-9 foot waves. I had not been in waves this size. It was memorable. Exhilarating actually!

What is the most amazing thing you saw in the park? 

I don’t know which season it was but one of the summers there were extraordinary northern lights. I have never seen northern lights with so many colors since (and I’ve seen lots of them since, having worked for 5 years at VOYA). These northern lights were so intense that I swear you could hear them crackle. A group of seasonal would stay out on the beach at Little Sand Bay watching them all night. 

Northern Lights
northern lights over Eagle Island

Please share an accomplishment from your tenure at APIS that gives you pride.

I think I grew a lot as a person. That is what I am most proud of. I started when I was nineteen, not knowing where I was going in life. When I finished my time at the park I had learned much about being an Interpreter – that I loved it and wanted to make working for the National Park Service a career.  Luckily, I had also fallen in love with a man that loved the outdoors like me and was willing to follow me to whatever great places the NPS would take us. We celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary this year, having lived and worked in 5 amazing places (JEFF, VOYA, JECA, HOME, SLBE), and raised two beautiful daughters that have unique life experiences because of my career.  

Merrith leading a tour of the ice house at the Hokenson Fishery
Merrith leading a tour of the ice house at the Hokenson Fishery

What story from your time at APIS do you share most frequently? 

Chasing black bears in the dark through Stockton Island campsites armed with just a flashlight and stupidity.

Trail camera image of black bear

If you could return to just one place in APIS, where would you go? Why? 

Julian Bay on a hot summer day. To just sit on the shore looking out on Lake Superior, listening to the waves, and smelling the pines.

Julian Bay beach in early morning
Julian Bay beach in early morning

Merrith is now the chief of interpretation at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We would like to thank her for this week’s 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.

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