Mark Gjerde has always dreamed about having a place up north. After he retired in 2006, he built his dream when he and his wife, Jan, bought a lot with a dilapidated 1898 lodge on Lake Hubert near Nisswa, Minn. The building could not be salvaged, so the Gjerdes constructed a log cabin. The nearly 1,300-acre lake is home to Camp Lake Hubert for Girls and Camp Lincoln for Boys. Having the camps on the lake means fewer boats and residents. They like their lake home so much that they're considering homesteading in Nisswa and downsizing in the Twin Cities.

Distance: 2 hours and 40 minutes from the Gjerde home in Apple Valley.

Best part: The connectedness to nature. Having good friends nearby.

Worst part: Squirrels and deer eating up the garden.

Family traditions: Being part of the July 4th boat parade of about 50 decorated boats, including their 1958 wooden Chris-Craft.

Fun cabin furnishings: A tree stump used as a pedestal for a guest bath sink. Agates cemented into the bathroom tile in honor of Mark's father, an avid agate collector.

Area must see: Paul Bunyan Trail ( for walking, snowmobiling and biking.

Wildlife encounters: A nearby eagle's nest, bluebirds, orioles and hummingbirds. It's fun to watch dragonflies eat mayflies in the spring.

Fall fun: During MEA weekend (Oct. 17-19), Ruttger's on Bay Lake has an Oktoberfest celebration with German food, music and arts and crafts vendors.

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