A high school friend had moved to Ely in the late 1960s and invited me up fishing and camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. I visited regularly from then on and fell in love with the area. In 1980, we (my spouse, Carol, and three preteen children) vacationed on Burntside Lake with our first family boat. It was said that if we ever had a cabin, it needed to be a log cabin.

That fall, my friend called and informed us of an island — called Pork Chop Island for its shape — for sale and encouraged us to take a look. We did just before freeze up. We bought the island in 1981 after securing a land-use permit.

We bought red pine logs from a logger in Isabella, and had them delivered to Ely where they were hand-peeled, scribed and assembled. In the spring of 1982, the “cabin” was transported to the lake. The logs were rafted together, eight-10 per raft, and towed to the island, carried to the site and reassembled. The process took three long weekends, with 10-12 friends each time. The cabin was inhabitable by next summer. We first slept at the cabin on July 4, 1983, celebrating Carol’s birthday with many friends and family. This has been an annual event to this day. A hardwood floor was installed in 1984; propane lights, cook stove, refrigerator, water heater and wood burning stove were added. The water system is powered by a 12-volt pump and solar panel and, in 2000, we wired the cabin for electricity and ran an underwater cable to the island.

Our children, and now grandchildren, love to canoe around the neighboring islands, fish off the dock, swim at the beach and build forts. At the evening campfire, we listen to loons and occasionally wolves. The island serves as a base for grouse hunting in the fall, snowmobiling in winter, and hiking the portage trails and picking blueberries in July. The cabin not only has made memories but also developed an appreciation and love of our natural world for all family members. We enjoy spending hours exploring the lake and seeing an abundance of wildlife.

Will and Carol Hilpert, Rosemount