Cabin Country: Escape to my 'happy place'

  • Updated: November 4, 2013 - 3:29 PM

A true hideaway, Joanne Bergman's retreat is near Cook, Minn., an old camp shack with no windows on an island at the west end of Lake Vermilion.

Photo: Christy DeSmith,

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My Schmidt Island cabin began in 1972 as a 12-foot-by-16-foot camp shack with shuttered openings but no windows. My brother Merv built it on leased land with his buddy Dr. Herb Pick from the University of Minnesota Psych Department. I bought the camp from the state of Minnesota in 1992.

My little one-room shelter had a magnificent broad view of the lake and the sunsets, but I had no electricity, no plumbing, no dock and no telephone. Woody, my barrel stove, dominated the room. One corner was my kitchen: a table, a Sears camp stove that burned gasoline and a giant Servel gas fridge I nicknamed Bronko Nagurski.

My brother and a family of his neighbors built a 12-by-16 addition, and I now had an almost 400 square-foot wooden tent with the whole ceiling papered in a blue-and-white awning stripe.

After a painful experience involving a burst appendix, at last I ordered a telephone. And I’ve since married a city guy, so we have electricity.

We also have a decent dock, a pontoon boat, an authentic Finnish sauna, electric appliances, a flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi and an actual bedroom. It’s still just a camp, but it’s my happy place — in Finnish, my pesä paikka, my nesting place.




CHANGE OF SEASONS! Let’s shutter these cabins for the cold months ahead. Cabin Country will celebrate your beloved hunting shacks through the fall. Please send your photos and stories to or submit online at Come wintertime, we'll turn our attention to ice-fishing houses.

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