Lakeshore Logbook – Jim Feldman

Jim Feldman
Jim Feldman

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 23rd 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.

Jim Feldman served as a seasonal interpreter, stationed at Raspberry Island lighthouse in 1999 and for a couple of weeks in 2000.

What is the coolest thing you did in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (APIS) as part of your job? 
I loved walking the trail to the Raspberry Island sand spit each morning to post weather information. It was a lovely way to start every morning. At the end of the walk, every day I would pick up a stone and place it in a giant, wind-worn root ball at the east end of the beach. 

root ball of an overturned white pine tree at the Raspberry Island sandspit
Root ball of an overturned white pine tree at the Raspberry Island sandspit

What is the most fun experience you had in the park? 
On a very, very calm day, we canoed from Little Sand Bay to Sand Island with several off-duty staff members and poked around the grounds at Sand Island light.

Jim Feldman paddling a canoe
Jim Feldman paddling a canoe

Please share a memorable experience you had in the park (during a visit or as part of your job). 
One of my favorite things to do was to watch the storms from the Raspberry light or from the edge of the dock. I would just sit there and bask in the power of Lake Superior.

Raspberry Island Light Station

What is the most amazing thing you saw in the park? 
At one point, a barge was towed out and anchored in front of the Raspberry Island dock. The barge carried a backhoe, which dug out a couple of very large rocks that were impeding boat traffic in front of the dock. Lake levels were quite low in the late 1990s. and the rocks were potential problems for larger recreational boats the cruise ships. I sat there watching this operation–which probably took less than 30 minutes–while thinking about what Frances Jacker, Lee Benton, and other Raspberry Island lighthouse keepers of years past would have thought about how much had changed in terms of how we protect and support navigation in and around the islands. 

barges at the Raspberry Island dock
Barges at the Raspberry Island dock

Please share an accomplishment from your tenure at APIS that gives you pride. 
At that time, there was only space for one person to stay on Raspberry at a time — in the old barn. Our arrangement was that I would be on the island 4 nights and another ranger would be there three nights. Heading into the summer, I wasn’t at all sure how I would fare on an island by myself. Would I be lonely? Bored? Scared? Exhilarated? I learned to love it — walking the beach, learning to identify plants and birds, reading and journaling. Turns out, there was never a dull moment.

inside the ranger quarters located in the old barn at Raspberry Island Light Station
Inside the ranger quarters located in the old barn at Raspberry Island Light Station

What story from your time at APIS do you share most frequently? 
Probably talking about what it was like to be on an island by myself for chunks of time. I sometimes tell people about my favorite beach game: I spent hours after work building little ships out of driftwood, bird feathers, and other beach detritus. I would launch them into the lake, and if they floated, I would bomb them with rocks. Or about how magical it is to watch a sunset from a lighthouse tower.

Lone visitor walking the beach at Raspberry Island sandspit

If you could return to just one place in APIS, where would you go? Why? 
This is an impossible question to answer. I always love returning to Raspberry. I find the history of Sand Island–and the way that history is written into the landscape–to be endlessly fascinating. I’ve never been to Basswood Island, and I would love to go. But  I have yet to get to the ice caves in the winter–so that’s my answer. The chance to walk out on the frozen lake and see those incredible caves by foot sounds so incredible–and the next time they freeze over I will be there!

Visitors at the mainland ice caves
Visitors at the mainland ice caves

Professor Jim Feldman is now the Director of the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. We want to thank Jim for his entry into our 50th Anniversary 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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