My extended family has comprised cabin people for many years. Most of them built their places with their own hands. It therefore was no surprise to anyone when I began construction on mine back in 1991 near Ely. I did most of the work myself, with occasional much-appreciated help from them. Since childhood I had many times sought peace and solitude in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, but I always wanted a place of my own.

Ely is my hometown. I’ve had a love affair with it since boyhood. I got a big break when an undeveloped lakeshore lot that suited my desire for isolation and privacy became available in 1989. It also offered reasonable access to my favorite town.

I immediately began clearing a space for the building, with as little vegetation removal as possible, continuing with a stone foundation and chimney, and then building, plumbing and wiring the cabin. All told, it took about 12 years to complete it, devoting most of the snow-free weekends and every annual vacation in that time period. Obviously, it was a labor of love.

The outside is cedar clapboards. The inside is entirely paneled with spruce carsiding, except for the sauna, which is paneled with cedar. The floors are recycled maple from an abandoned school in western Minnesota. I fully insulated the entire building because I use it year-round. For many years it was “four rooms and a path,” as we used the ubiquitous outhouse, then very common at area cabins. Only recently did I add inside “facilities,” in deference to my partner’s plea that the trek to the outhouse didn’t thrill her. I added a propane through-the-wall space heater at the same time, to protect the new restroom (actually the sauna-changing room) from freezing, although a wood stove downstairs does the job admirably as long as I’m there to stoke it.

I’m retired now, and I live here about nine months of the year. My ladylove, who spends the snow-free months with me, puts up with me for the remainder of the year at her home in the Twin Cities. Once long ago she bought me a sign that I hung over the entrance. It reads “If you’re lucky enough to live at the lake, you’re lucky enough.” I wholeheartedly agree.

I swim, sunbathe, do chores, snowshoe, hunt and fish, read, and quietly contemplate. I am content.

William Lynott, Ely