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Cabin Courting

To fall in love with a cabin, sometimes you have to “test drive” it.

Written by Lauri Paulson

My husband Pete and I have been looking at cabins and dreaming about cabins for the past four years or so. We live in Prior Lake, Minn. We originally thought that we wanted something within two hours of travel time from our primary home. We looked in Wisconsin and Minnesota, but nothing within our price range was what we wanted. Either the cabin was in a bad location or in horrible shape. Or it just didn’t feel like a cabin.

Then Pete found a real log cabin on the Arrowhead Trail in northern Minnesota while he was on a trip along Lake Superior’s North Shore with our daughter, Nikki. He drove out to the cabin, which was in a very remote location. It was a 45-minute drive from Grand Marais, Minn., including 20 miles on dirt roads. It had only generator power, an outhouse, no running water and no phone coverage. Nothing! Pete immediately fell in love. He took pictures and texted and emailed them to me.  I told Pete it was too far away from our primary home. It would be a six-hour drive each way. Then he told me that this cabin sat on McFarland Lake, which has direct access to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA). What a great bonus! Pete had made many BWCA trips during his lifetime, and I grew up camping in BWCA territory when I was a kid. I still told Pete that it was too far away, but he kept in contact with the agent and the owners of the cabin. Pete showed me more pictures from time to time.


We had planned to go to the North Shore over the holidays, so Pete made arrangements with the cabin owners to look at the cabin while we were staying in the area. In the wintertime, the cabin is inaccessible by vehicle because the county doesn’t plow. You either have to hike in or take a snowmobile or ATV from the BWCA entry point at John Lake, a little under a mile away. The owner of the cabin met us at the entry point with his big red Honda ATV. It was snowing and cold. What an adventure just to see a cabin … The place was beautiful. It was small with two bedrooms. No bathroom. It needed a kitchen, closet space – everything. This cabin was basically a shell, but it was very adorable.  It was still too far for me though. Pete loved it and kept thinking about it, talking about it and emailing me pictures.

See also A Cabin Up North

Pete’s birthday, our anniversary and Valentine’s Day were all coming up in February, so I made arrangements to go to the North Shore again. The cabin owners offered us the opportunity to “test drive” the cabin for a weekend. So we purchased snowshoes, and Pete pulled all of his Duluth packs out. The cabin owners made us feel very much at home. They left wood for the woodstove and a handmade Styrofoam seat cushion for the outhouse (no cold tushes). Pete and I got cozy in the little cabin. We pumped up our air mattress and rolled out our sleeping bags. We ate canned food and marshmallows. We watched the birds and critters of the forest through the cabin’s large windows. Pete played music on his iPod, and we sat in front of the beautiful fire in the woodstove, enjoying our moments of peace, relaxation and total tranquility. As we watched the snow piling up outside, I felt so overjoyed at the thought of owning that little cabin.



I told Pete that we should buy it if he really wanted to. So we put in our offer and purchased it. We have since invested a lot of of energy into our little cabin. We put a railing on the deck, placed rain barrels outside, and had a wood-burning sauna built. Pete also installed a camp shower inside the sauna. We installed a kitchen and brought in endless truckloads of furniture, groceries, supplies and antiques. We built a small guest cabin with a loft for our five grandchildren.  We eventually outfitted our place with toys, too. We purchased two canoes, one kayak, a dock, a 14-foot Lund fishing boat, two ATVs and a snowmobile with a pull-behind trailer/sled. There’s no place like our cabin. Every time I go there, the world just seems to slow down and troubles seem to melt away.


See also
A Rocky Mountain Cabin For Retirement