The smell of wood smoke anywhere instantly transports me to our hideout on a lake north of Walker, Minn. “Hideout” is a good description of our little cabin in the woods. The cabin is secluded. It is the last place in off a dead-end road, and there is a mile of shoreline beyond that is cedar swamp and will never be built upon.

Quiet. Private. Paradise. Perfect. We are on the north side of the lake, and the sunrises are spectacular.

We found our cabin in the dead of winter in 1985. We bought it on sight. Though it was not winterized, it had the miracle of an artesian well, piped over to the shoreline, trickling water all winter long no matter how cold. Wearing pajamas, a sheep-skinned coat, pack boots and a rabbit fur hat, I walked out and placed a white five-gallon bucket under the pipe. I returned half an hour later with a bucket full of the sweetest, freshest water on earth.

The cabin, built in the 1950s, had two little bedrooms with a tiny bathroom cramped in between. The living room ran into the kitchen with only a half-wall counter in-between. There was an ugly green shag rug in the living room and beat-up gray linoleum in the kitchen. Propped up on bricks in the living room was an old drafty Franklin stove.

Upon our arrival during the winter months, my top priority was always to build a fire. I remember one frigid winter night when our twin girls, Rachel and Rebecca, were 10 years old and daughter Sarah was a 6-month-old. I set fire to the newspaper under the kindling and suddenly bats exploded out of the ancient stove to the sounds of shrieks, as we ducked and scrambled for protection.

The shag carpet and beat-up linoleum gave way to Berber carpet and 12-by-12 ceramic tiles. We splurged on a magnificent addition of a year-round bathroom, too. The walls are now covered with deer heads, antlers and other trophies that have meaning to our hunting family. We replaced the Franklin stove with a nice, efficient Vermont Castings stove. My wife, Linda, the fire-builder, will build a crackling, popping fire most evenings throughout the year, soothing the rigid edges of my soul. Ah, the smell of wood smoke.

Fred Soucie, Coon Rapids