Lakeshore Logbook – Kayci Cook Collins

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 fourth 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.

Kayci Cook Collins is the fourth generation of her family to work for the National Park Service. She served as Chief of Interpretation and Resource Education for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore from April of 1991 to December of 1994.

Kayci leads a group hike to the Sand Island lighthouse

What is the coolest thing you did in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (APIS) as part of your job? 
Late one winter, I went to Raspberry Island to retrieve the datalogger that was collecting temperature and humidity data inside the Lightkeeper’s Quarters as part of our preparations to refurbish the lighthouse.  In those days, dataloggers could only hold 6 months of data before becoming full.  To have continuous data, we had to go to the island, grab the logger, bring it back to HQ in Bayfield, download the data and return it to the lightkeeper’s quarters, all on the same day.  A friend offered to drive me to Raspberry Island across the lake ice in one of his beat-up Chevy Blazers to make quicker work of the job.  It was a bit unnerving – we drove with the windows down to listen for ice cracking sounds.  It was exciting and fun and we fulfilled our mission, returning the datalogger before dark that day!  I know that isn’t possible now, as much of APIS is wilderness.  I think skiing across the ice would also have been fun, but I think we would have missed at least one day of data!

Winter view of Raspberry Island lighthouse

What is the most fun experience you had in the park? 
I loved the safety training sessions that were organized for NPS employees – driving on ice (going really fast and braking to see how vehicles skid), snowmobiling (going up and over icy pressure ridges without tipping over), and water rescue (jumping into the water through a hole in the ice – wearing a dry suit, of course – and being pulled to safety).  

NPS staff practicing ice rescue techniques

Please share a memorable experience you had in the park. 
I was kayaking near Oak Island and a common loon surfaced right next to my boat.  We stared at each other motionless for a moment and then moved together for a bit, in parallel formation, until the loon disappeared below the lake surface again. 

What is the most amazing thing you saw in the park? 
On an overnight trip to Sand Island, I saw the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) swirling and pulsating pink and green.  It was magical!

Northern lights over Sand and Eagle islands

Please share an accomplishment from your tenure at APIS that gives you pride. 
During my tenure, we established an Artist-in-Residence program.  We held a juried competition that got a huge number of submissions! We selected talented writers, artists, musicians, and photographers.  Participants stayed at Sand Island to create their products.  They interacted with visitors and did public programs to share their experience and their work.  I was so impressed with the talent and creativity of the participants and the public response.  

Artist in residence

What story from your time at APIS do you share most frequently? 
Superintendent Jerry Banta put me in charge of the project to return the Devils Island Fresnel lens to the lighthouse tower there. I coordinated repair and conservation of the lens with NPS conservators, which was done in the shop space at the Bayfield High School.  After the lens panels were repaired, they were crated to protect them on the journey to Devils Island. 

Kayci next to a crated section of the Fresnel lens at Devils Island light



How does one get a bunch of extremely heavy, glass and brass Fresnel lens panels to the farthest island from the Bayfield Peninsula? By US Coast Guard Chinook helicopter, of course!  I was honored to ride aboard that helicopter, which set down on the grassy lawn of the lighthouse grounds.  It took the combined NPS and USCG team several days to uncrate each lens panel, hoist it to the top of the tower, and reassemble the lens. 

We stayed in the light keeper’s quarters, entertained in the evening by live music, as some of the employees brought instruments.  One of the songs we sang was “Good Night Irene.” From that night forward, the Devils Island Light became Irene to me. 

Kayci and Park Historian Dave Snyder in the Devils Island light tower

If you could return to just one place in APIS, where would you go? Why? 
I would kayak from Little Sand Bay to Sand Island – that was my go-to APIS experience during my 4 years there, an easy trip across the water, close and cozy but wild and wonderful. 

A single kayaker paddling from Little Sand Bay to Sand Island

Kayci is currently the Superintendent for the Flagstaff Area National Monuments (Walnut Canyon, Wupatki, and Sunset Crater).  We would like to thank her for adding her great stories to the Lakeshore Logbook. We look forward to sharing more Logbook entries with you in the coming weeks. You can find the whole series here.

New National Park Service app features Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Curious about the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and more than 400 other national parks? The National Park Service just launched an app that includes an interactive map and current information about the park we love.

The app is called “National Park Service.” You can find it in iOS and Android app stores.

According to the app description, ” The app was created by National Park Service staff—people who know national parks—to help you make the most of your visit. With all of these parks and a brand new app, it will take some time to finish creating content for each park. If you don’t find what you’re looking for now, check back regularly as our rangers work to complete the experience for each of our parks.”

App features include interactive maps plus information about park tours, amenities and accessibility. You can also sign up for news and alerts for the park or parks of your choosing. Much of the content mirrors what’s on the National Park Service website.

One especially useful feature is the ability to download content for offline use. This can be important in and around the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore where cell phone coverage varies from none to good depending on your location and carrier.

  • NPS app screen shot: find your park
  • NPS app screen shot: Apostle Islands preview
  • NPS app screen shot: Apostle Islands details
  • NPS app screen shot: access content

Lessons from the hermit in the times of COVID

Stuck inside, practicing good social distancing, my eyes drift to a large, framed map of the Apostle Islands that I keep just above my writing desk. Even the names on that map are enough to spark wanderlust: “Hermit Island.” Was there really a hermit? What did he do out there all alone? Could you live alone on a small island cut-off from the rest of the world? Are there lessons for us in his story that could offer solace during our COVID isolation? Curl up and read on. What you are about to read is a shadowy mix of fact and fiction, enough to make serious historians roll over in their ivory towers but in these days when we are all COVID-Hermits, what else is there to do?

For as long as there have been societies, there have been those who’ve chosen to live apart, who turn their backs on the world to … do what? Listen for voices in the wind? Search the clouds for signs of the divine? Think dark thoughts, enlightened thoughts, no thoughts at all? It is said that from 1847 to 1861 Hermit Island was home to a mysterious man who lived alone, tending a garden, making barrels to sell to passing fishermen, keeping mostly to himself. Few hard facts remain, even his name, although the old maps speak of this place as “Wilson’s Island.” Yet, was that his first name, or his last? How did he come to live here, and why? What poetry or curse did he find in the silence of this 778-acre island? 

A clipping from The Bayfield County Press dated October 22, 1953, written by Eleanor Knight more than 90 years after the hermit’s death, claims that “Wilson” was born in Canada of Scottish parents in 1792. At 18, he left his home, and a fiancée, on a sailing vessel taking him down the Pacific Coast cruising timber and living the wilderness life. “Fear was unknown to him,” the article says, “And the things he did … grew into legends.” Returning in 1817, he found his parents dead and his intended bride married to another. Wilson lit out for the wildest country he could find trying to out-run his sadness. There are tales of joining the Hudson Bay Company as a fur trapper, of a wife and daughter abandoned along the Columbia River, a cache of gold let to him by his parents, and of his love for a small group of islands he glimpsed in his travels: the Apostles.

By the 1840’s, according to the newspaper article, Wilson was working with the American Fur Company on Madeline Island, another of the Apostles. His wilderness life had left him “powerfully built” and “lithe, quick in all his movements.” He considered himself “the best man on Lake Superior.” That is, until he met John W. “King” Bell. A feud between the two men came to a head with a public fist fight in 1847. Wilson, the loser, loaded a small boat with his belongings and what was left of his pride, and left to find an island of his own.

The heart of Hermit Island rises slowly. From a clearing near the island’s crest, the lake twinkles below like a blue eye just opening from sleep. Even less is known of Wilson’s solitary life on the island. It is said he built a one-room cabin, kept chickens, read The Whole Duty of Man by lamplight, and left only for supplies and then only on Sundays hoping to encounter as few other people as possible. 

There is little record of where Wilson’s cabin stood, no sign of it now so many years later. Lack of solid details leaves the mystery open, allowing visitors to walk the island over and over asking, Is this the clearing where his garden was? Is this a trail he might have walked? Did he sing while he gardened? And when he saw a fishing boat far off with a trailing flock of gulls like puffs of white smoke, did he wonder what the voices in the galley sounded like after so many months of silence? Even his death is shrouded in mystery. Stories range from being murdered by thieves ransacking the cabin for his fabled stash of gold coins, to coiling in the throes of delirium from the evils of homemade alcohol.

In life, and in death, the hermit left more questions than answers. The newspaper article author herself says “unfortunately, time has erased all but the plain facts, and even the ‘facts’ contradict each other.” Who was this man? Was it solitude or the fear of society that did him in? With solitude, where is the line between invigorating and insanity? Will we ever find the truth, and should we even try? What is the role of human history in a national park wilderness?

The answers, to Bob Mackreth, long-time historian at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, may say as much about the desires of park visitors today as about the hermit himself. “The Hermit’s greatest significance to me is as one of the better-known and most intriguing members of the rich cast of characters in the Apostle Islands drama,” says Mackreth, now retired. “His story, and the way it has grown through the years, illustrates the way people seek human connection with this archipelago. Though Hermit Island is now labeled as wilderness, ‘untrammeled by man,’ in fact men and women have been living and working on the island for a long time. That people are willing to speculate and embellish shows how eager they are to find a human dimension to go along with the islands’ natural and scenic splendor.”

Seeking a human dimension through the story of a man who shunned society may seem like a contradiction. Is it even possible? How would the Hermit have weathered the solitude of COVID? Should we all hunker down with just a brood of chickens and a good book? Can we use this time of social distanced isolation to explore a bit about the hermit in all of us? Just another flock of unanswered questions on a remote and beautiful island where no answers are whispered on the wind.

Jeff Rennicke, Executive Director


COVID UPDATE: If contemplating a visit to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore during this pandemic, the NPS requires all visitors to adhere to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local public health authorities to protect visitors and employees.  This includes staying at home, with limited exceptions and, if using shared or outdoor space, maintaining social distancing of at least six feet and where that’s not possible, wearing a mask as required by the Federal Mask Mandate for all federal properties.

Lakeshore Logbook – Zach Rozmiarek

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 third 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.

Zach Rozmiarek interned at the park in the summer of 2008. He worked as an Interpretive Ranger from 2009 to 2017.

What position(s) did you hold?
I was the Transportation Interpretive Intern, I worked as the Interpretive Ranger at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, Raspberry Island, Stockton Island, Meyers Beach, and Little Sand Bay.  I also worked one winter at park headquarters.

What is the coolest thing you did in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (APIS) as part of your job? 
The coolest thing I’ve ever done as part of my job was staying in a lighthouse.  Everytime I see pictures of Raspberry Island, I point out which room was mine.  One night a big storm rolled in and I forgot to shut the windows on the museum side of the house.  I remember walking through this historic house to shut the windows, with only the lightning to light my way.

What is the most fun experience you had in the park? 
The most fun experience was definitely Neil Howk’s training boat trips.  He has so much knowledge of everything in the park.  We would go to places most people wouldn’t be able to get to, and Neil would tell us all about them.  It was also one of the first times I would meet the rest of the interpretive staff.  I have some great friends that I got to know for the first time on those boat trips.

Please share a memorable experience you had in the park. 
I started my own tradition when I worked on Stockton Island.  On my last day of the season, I would wake up early to watch the sunrise.  I would hike out to Julian Bay with my coffee and enjoy my last morning on the island.  Some seasons I would go alone, and some seasons other employees would come with me.  I always thought it was important to get as much out of my last day on the island as I could.

What is the most amazing thing you saw in the park? 
There are so many amazing things that I saw, it is hard to pick just one.  Seeing wildlife out on Stockton island was spectacular.  Once I was on the Tombolo Trail and a heron crossed right in front of me. Watching the storms out on the islands was also very amazing.  I loved standing on a dock and being able to watch a storm roll through off in the distance.  I also loved seeing all of the islands and rock formations.

Please share an accomplishment from your tenure at APIS that gives you pride. 
I am really proud of my campfire programs, in particular my pine marten program.  This program inspired visitors to keep a lookout for the pine martens, which resulted in additional reported sightings.  My program was also mentioned in an article for Lake Superior Magazine, in which I am referred to as a “wildlife expert.”

What story from your time at APIS do you share most frequently?
There is a story I used in my bear programs, that I tell my students every year. Back before there was a toilet in the ranger cabin on Stockton Island, we had an outhouse to use.  It was the end of my first season on Stockton and I desperately wanted to see a bear.  Well, one night at about 10pm, I went out to use the outhouse.  I had my very dim headlamp and as I turned my head to the left, I saw two glowing eyes looking back at me.  All season I have taught visitors to not be afraid of bears, just make a lot of noise and they’ll go away.  So, being an educated ranger, I scream like a little girl, run inside and slam the door.  This actually helped, as it scared the bear away.  So I knew there was a bear out there somewhere, and I still need to use the outhouse.  So I slowly stepped out of the cabin, and ran as fast as I could to the outhouse.  That was the last time I had to use the bathroom that night.

 What, if any, ’something’ from your time at APIS was an impetus for your chosen career or life path?
Working as an interpretive ranger showed me that I wanted to go into education.  I discovered my love of teaching others from working at the Apostle Islands.

If you could return to just one place in APIS, where would you go? Why?
I have spent so much time at many different places, it’s hard to pick just one.  If I had to pick, I think I would go back to the ranger cabin on Stockton Island.  I have fond memories of relaxing in the cabin at night, reading a book or working on a puzzle.   With no TV, and very little cellphone signal, it allowed everything to move at a slower pace, which is something I really miss.


Zach now teaches 5th grade students in the Menomonie, Wisconsin school district. We would like to thank him for adding his great stories to the Lakeshore Logbook. We look forward to sharing more Logbook entries with you in the coming weeks. You can find the whole series here.

Watch now if you dare: Apostle Islands Folklore and Fake-lore

Pirates, hermits, ghosts of lighthouse keepers killed in a storm, haunted lighthouses, buried treasure: there are stories on every one of the Apostle Islands and some of them are even true!

Enjoy a journey through the fact and fiction of some iconic Apostle Islands stories with retired Park Historian Bob Mackreth. Brought to us by the Bayfield Heritage Association and all the tall-tale tellers in island history.

You’ll also see introductory comments by Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Executive Director Jeff Rennicke.

We want to thank the BHA for creating a wonderful series of video programs about the rich history of the Apostle Islands and of the region. See more past programs and learn more about the organization by following this link.

50th Anniversary logo celebrates iconic beauty, experiences and cultural connections to the park we love

If someone asked what you love the most about the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, what might you say?

Climbing the serpentine cast iron stairs to the top of a century-old lighthouse… Savoring wild blueberries during a family beach day at Julian Bay… Or maybe feeling icy-cold spray sting your face as you sail to weather in a stiff summer breeze.

Climbing to the top of the Outer Island Light – Jon Okerstrom photo

Dig a little deeper and some park visitors might talk passionately about the thrill of paddling a sea kayak many miles from one island to the next. Hiking an island trail to discover decaying remnants of a logging camp slowly being reclaimed by the wilderness. Or maybe enjoying the quiet pleasure of sitting alone on a rugged shoreline, soaking in the solitude, surrounded by the vastness of Lake Superior.

Solitude – Jon Okerstrom photo

Many of these captivating experiences and emotional connections are represented in the official logo of the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Madison, Wisconsin-based photographer, journalist and graphic artist Jon Okerstrom created the artwork in collaboration with the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, the National Park Service, The Red Cliff band of Lake Superior Chippewa and The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Okerstrom used his own photographs and experiences on the islands as his inspiration.

“There’s so much to love about the National Lakeshore,” Okerstrom said. “I hope the artwork resonates with the many different kinds of park users and inspires future visitors to explore, enjoy and care for it.”

The color palette in the sky represents the moments before sunrise over the lake.

Apostle Islands sunrise – Jon Okerstrom photo

Okerstrom chose to feature the 90-feet-tall Outer Island lighthouse built in 1874 to represent historic aspects of the islands.

Outer Island Lighthouse – Jon Okerstrom photo

The floral design on the perimeter of the logo is a tribute to Native American beadwork.

He included an American Bald Eagle because of the raptor’s importance in Native American culture and because eagles are making a comeback on the islands. The National Park Service reported 46 nesting pairs in 2018, up from only 12 in 2006.

American Bald Eagle – Jon Okerstrom photo

The text, ‘Caring for our place on Gichgami’ is as much a statement of purpose for the present as it is a call to action for future generations.

“We want to honor those passionate people who had the vision to create the National Lakeshore 50 years ago, as well as the ongoing stewardship of this national treasure by the National Park Service,” Okerstrom said. “We also want to raise awareness about the important work we all need to do to protect and enhance the park experience for the next 50 years and beyond. The Friends group and its supporters play an important role in that.”

The official logo is being used to identify an ongoing series of celebration events in 2020 and 2021. Many of those events have been and will be virtual due to the ongoing pandemic.

You can also find the logo featured on a wide variety of collectible keepsakes, many created by local artisans and business partners, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the park.

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore 50th Anniversary Celebration is a collaborative effort by the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, the National Park Service, event sponsors and celebration partners. Visit the 50th Anniversary page for information on events through the fall of 2021 and follow the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on Facebook for event updates.

Apostle Islands ice caves remain closed

BAYFIELD, WISCONSIN (National Park Service) – Public access to the mainland ice caves in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore remain closed due to unstable ice conditions. As recently as February 4, there was open water at the caves, and ice cover on Lake Superior was at record lows. In spite of the recent cold temperatures, most of Lake Superior remains open water and the ice that has formed near the caves is unstable, jagged, and rough, creating high risk conditions. “Ice at the caves is so unstable and jagged that it will not allow safe access by rescue teams using snowmobiles,” said Chief Ranger Chris Smith.  

   

Meyers Beach Ice Conditions – February 14, 2021 – NPS Photo

“Current conditions are different from the ice cave conditions of 2014, when over 95% of Lake Superior was covered in ice,” said park superintendent Lynne Dominy. “The current ice shelf formed over the past two weeks from blown in chunks of ice, subject to movement by winds and fracturing by Lake Superior waves. Under these conditions, changes in wind direction and waves can cause this ice shelf to blow in one day and be gone the next.” 

Although the park has specific criteria for determining when the ice caves can be deemed “accessible”, the extent of unfrozen surface waters and duration of subzero temperatures will always control the stability of the ice shelf.  Lake Superior is warming rapidly, ice cover is decreasing, and the likelihood of access to the ice caves has become a rare event. “One of the most common phrases you hear around here is ‘the Lake is the Boss’-which is true in the summer and in the winter,” added Dominy.  

“The park’s primary concern is the health and safety of the community, park visitors, and staff,” added Dominy. “As the NPS monitors and responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are working closely with the NPS Office of Public Health and local health office to use the latest science to guide our decision making.” Due to the continuing high prevalence of COVID in the area, Bayfield County Health Department issued a mass gathering limitation order prohibiting gatherings over 100 people to protect the health and well-being of residents and visitors alike, and to prevent first responders and the local healthcare systems from being overwhelmed. Past ice cave events attracted thousands of visitors, with peak days of 14,000 people. Roadways, bathrooms, EMT trailers, parking, stairways, and the ice caves can become extremely congested and not allow for social distancing. The ice caves at Apostle Island National Lakeshore will remain closed for the 2021 season. 

For more information about Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, please visit our website at www.nps.gov/apis or call (715) 779-3398.  Join Apostle Island’s on-line conversations on Facebook: www.facebook.com/apostleislandsnps 

About the National Park Service:  More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 423 national park service units and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities.  Visit us at www.nps.gov, and on Facebook www.facebook.com/nationalparkservice, Twitter www.twitter.com/natlparkservice, and YouTube www.youtube.com/nationalparkservice

A promise of spring in the sounds of chickadee

Nothing. No tracks but my own stitched into the dusting of fresh snow that fell last night, white as birch bark. No flittering shadows in the trees, not a sliver of bird song in the air.

Winter in the Lakeshore. What sun there is this time of year shines weakly, halfheartedly through the white gauze of clouds, offering not even the slightest pretense of warmth. For nearly a week temperatures in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore have barely risen above zero. The mercury seems painted to the bottom of the thermometer. A shiver runs through me as I stomp my feet for warmth and then listen again for any sign of life. The only sound is from the bare tips of branches chattering like teeth.

At first glance nature doesn’t seem to have invested much in this. There are subtle beauties—pine branches tipped in white, the pale-blue glow of late afternoon light off the snow. But this deep into winter, you look less for beauty than for signs that spring has not been forgotten. And most often, it comes this time of year as the simple call of a chickadee.

Some 88 percent of the bird species found in the islands migrate south for the winter, but not the chickadee. Weighing just a third of an ounce, the sight of this little spark of life or even just the sliver of its song, seems nothing short of miraculous in the depth of winter’s hold.

To keep their internal furnace stoked, chickadees eat twice as much food in winter as in summer. They feed almost constantly during daylight to accumulate a layer of fat that will burn slowly through the cold night. They also have 30 percent more feathers in the winter and can fluff them up, trapping a layer of warm air.

When it gets very cold, chickadees lower themselves into a kind of controlled hypothermic state, dropping their body temperatures as much as 20 degrees below the normal 104, thereby slowing energy consumption. With any hint of warmth, chickadees emerge from their sheltered caverns of thick brush, chirping softly and eating, always eating.

I cross a small creek. Bending down, I shovel the snow off the surface and tap the ice with my mittened hand, imagining a painted turtle somewhere beneath it half-hearing the thud as it waits patiently for spring. But still there is no movement, no sound. Only silence.

But then, just as I start to turn back towards home I hear it: the soft, two-toned whistle of chickadees. As I search for them, I see a downy woodpecker spiraling up a birch tree, its blaze of reds as sharp as a tongue of flame. On the ground, I notice rabbit tracks where moments ago I had seen only unbroken snow.

These slight signs of life make it possible to believe in spring again. They help me appreciate the beauty of what is left of winter and remind me that the cold won’t last forever. Each track, each snippet of bird song, each frozen seed-pod, is an affirmation of life, a defiance to the cold, a promise.

Take heart, they seem to say. Spring will come again. Even on the coldest day, it is written in the song of a chickadee.

Jeff Rennicke, Executive Director

Lakeshore Logbook – Larry Johnson

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 second 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.

After 37 years with the National Park Service, Larry Johnson retired as the Superintendent of Ozark National Scenic Riverways in January of 2020. He said, “My time at Apostle Islands was a highlight of my 41 year federal government (37 with NPS) career and I have some wonderful memories of those days.”

Larry Johnson

When did you work in the park?  May 1983 to June 1991

What position(s) did you hold?  East District Ranger

What is the coolest thing you did in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (APIS) as part of your job? Lots of things, but the standout was rescuing Loons trapped in commercial fishing pond nets.  Also rescuing injured and ill people from the islands and boats in trouble. 

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

SCUBA diving with the East Carolina University Underwater Archeology Field School and doing underwater archeological work on the shipwrecks in the park. 

Please share a memorable experience you had in the park. A mid-winter trip to Stockton Island by commercial fishing boat, paddling ashore with a dinghy, donning snowshoes and tracking radio collared black bears with telemetry to their dens as they were hibernating. We then tranquillized them and weighed and measured them before safely tucking them back in their dens.  Some had cubs so we recorded, weighed and measured the cubs. I held them inside my coat to keep them warm while we briefly interrupted their sleep until we placed them back with their mother. 

What story from your time at APIS do you share most frequently?  When a black bear on Stockton Island got too aggressive with people, even boarding moored boats seeking food, we live-trapped it and transported it 16 miles to shore via park boat.  We then drove it, still in the live-trap, about 25 miles inland to where the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest allowed us to release it back into the wild.

It had a radio collar so we could track it’s telemetry to watch where it went from there.  Well, it made a beeline back to the shoreline north of Red Cliff, covering those miles in only a few days.  The bear went back and forth along the shoreline and then we lost it’s radio signal.  A week later, we picked up its signal back on Stockton Island! Thankfully the bear kept out of trouble and didn’t bother anyone again.  That winter, we recovered it’s radio collar hanging on a tree limb stub.  So the bear slipped its collar, lived happily ever after and never demanded our attention after that! 

Please share an accomplishment from your tenure at APIS that gives you pride. I think doing all the rescues of injured and ill visitors and visitors in distress over the years is probably what I’m most proud of. I also served sometimes as an EMT with the Coast Guard on their 41 foot boat taking care of patients we were evacuating from the islands or a vessel in distress. 

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

I was always amazed by the beautiful clarity of the water in Lake Superior.  I recall taking a sechi disc reading to measure how deep into the water I could see the disc.  I could still see it at 60 feet down! Probably could have seen it deeper but I ran out of line!

What, if any, ’something’ from your time at APIS was an impetus for your chosen career or life path?  I am grateful to have had so many great experiences as a Park Ranger while at APIS.  I loved ranger work and it affirmed and established my career path as a National Park Service Ranger from then on. 

Over my 37 years with the NPS, I was privileged to work in 10 parks including Yellowstone,Voyageurs, Badlands, Jewel Cave, Ozark Riverways and Sleeping Bear Dunes while serving as a ranger, District Ranger, Chief Ranger, Deputy Superintendent and Superintendent. I will always look back at my time at Apostle Islands with great fondness, great memories and great friends. I would do it all again if I could. APIS is a very special place for me. 

If you could return to just one place in APIS, where would you go? Why? Lots of favorite places there but my most favorite is the “Singing Sands” of Julian Bay on Stockton Island.  I would love to hike the Tombolo Trail again sometime! The natural beauty of the park is all seen right there. 

We would like to thank Larry Johnson for adding his memories to the Lakeshore Logbook. We look forward to sharing more Logbook entries with you in the coming weeks. You can find the whole series here.