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 34rd 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.
Susan Larsen worked as a seasonal interpretive ranger at Colorado National Monument (1977-78) and Wupatki National Monument (1981-82) before moving to Bayfield in 1983.
Daughter Sophie Howk, who years earlier visited park headquarters with her dad on a father-daughter day at work, worked as a visitor use assistant at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in 2017.
In 1983 I was hired as a museum technician to catalog the contents of the Hokenson Brothers Fishery twine shed at Little Sand Bay. I hired three museum aides and together we organized, identified, and documented thousands of objects associated with the Hokenson Brothers fishing/farming operation.
The highlight of this cataloging project was getting to know Roy Hokenson. He was still living in his home next door to the twine shed. Roy was the youngest and only surviving Hokenson brother. His wife Irene had died in 1982 and I think he enjoyed our attention.
We took our lunch breaks with Roy and got a first-hand account of his life as a commercial fisherman. We would bring him objects to identify and listen to his stories. The most memorable Roy experience was bringing him to the twine shed to help us identify an unusual object. He had injured his foot in a lawn mowing accident and agreed to let us wheel him over on a flatbed wheelbarrow designed for fish boxes. He immediately identified the mysterious metal rake-like basket we presented to him.
He told us how one day he dropped their best field glasses into Lake Superior. His brother Eskel marked their location before they returned to Little Sand Bay where Leo Hokenson used his blacksmith skills to fabricate a “rake”. The brothers returned to the site, used the rake to drag the lake bed, and successfully retrieved the binoculars.
The following season I returned as an interpreter at Little Sand Bay and the Bayfield Visitor Center. I enjoyed learning about the islands and getting out on the water occasionally, but my fondest memories come from personal time in the park with my family and friends. Many summer nights were spent at Little Sand Bay.
Busy families with small children would gather at the picnic area for potluck dinners. As night fell the children were still running up and down the beach with abandon as the adults relaxed near the fire.
We had some memorable times as park volunteers camping on Outer Island and Long Island with our toddler son to assist with bird surveys.
Family trips to the ice caves were also fun and exciting. I remember walking out to the caves with our infant daughter in a front pack. I’m sure visitors found it quite curious to see a nursing mother atop a huge ice boulder. We have been so fortunate that Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has been the backdrop for our lives.
When did you work in the park?
I worked as a Visitor Use Assistant at the Visitor Center in Bayfield and Meyers Beach for the summer of 2017.
What is the coolest thing you did in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (APIS) as part of your job?
A lot of cool things about the job come to mind but the week of training at the beginning of the season stands out. Getting to visit multiple islands in a day, learning more about the histories of the people who lived and worked there and spending multiple days on the water was a unique way to prepare for a job.
After growing up in Bayfield a lot of the training and job itself felt like an introduction to a different side of the place I had lived most of my life. Not only did it make every part of the job more interesting, but it also made my appreciation grow even more for a place I already loved.
What is the most fun experience you had in the park?
Towards the end of my summer, I got to join and help facilitate a tour to the Sand Island Lighthouse. Before that I had only ever seen the lighthouse from the water and had never done the hike up from the dock, so it was fun to finally see it for myself.
I loved learning more about the people who lived on Sand Island and seeing what was left of the community they built there. I also got to share that day with my dad. He had retired from his career at Apostle Islands the year before I worked at the park but was volunteering that day, so I got to hear him share some the many stories he knows which was a wonderful bonus.
If you could return to just one place in APIS, where would you go? Why?
Julian Bay on Stockton Island is always one of my favorite places to visit. I was lucky enough to spend a week or so camping with friends on Stockton for several summers growing up. I have a lot of memories hiking around the island and spending days on the beach. If you can get there early enough, Julian Bay the best place to see the sunrise and drink a cup of coffee.
We want to thank Susan and Sophie for their entries in our 50th Anniversary Lakeshore Logbook. We look forward to sharing the final Logbook entry, featuring Susan’s husband Neil and son Forrest, with you next week.
You can find the whole series here.