In 2008, in the midst of the Great Recession, I lost my job, like millions of others.

Now I had plenty of time on my hands. I decided it was a good time to start realizing my dreams of building a cabin in the North Woods.

I looked at several available plans, but none seemed to fulfill my requirements, so I drew up my own.

I would pack my pickup truck with all the materials I could fit. Then I would head north on Interstate 35. The drive was five hours, first on the rather boring prairie, but then the landscape gradually changed and the boreal forest started taking over. I loved it — the drive would transport not just my body but my mind to a place far away from the city and all my worries.

Cook County is the triangle of land wedged between the Canadian border and the North Shore of Lake Superior. This is where our property was located.

Our land was defined to the east and north by a deep rocky gorge, cut by a mountain stream. It had several rapids and one large waterfall. The stream made a 90-degree turn, forming a corner, and this is where we decided our cabin should be.

Our driveway ended about 150 feet from the cabin site. This meant I had to carry everything from my truck down a narrow path winding downhill through the trees. Every bag of cement, every timber, every sheet of plywood and later a queen-size mattress, stove, fridge and couch. It all adds up to thousands and thousands of pounds.

In the beginning I would go for a week at a time since I had no obligations back in the city. But after 18 months, I managed to land a new job. I was very grateful, but I knew this would slow down the construction process.

I was now restricted to going on weekends, and I was never able to build in the winter. After four years and countless trips, the cabin was finally done. I get a good feeling looking at the cabin now, knowing I designed and built it. I carried every pound of building material down that path on my shoulders. I also got in a lot better shape, lost 30 pounds and got more muscle. My wife seems to appreciate that.

My wife and I both love how we can now escape to the North Woods whenever we want, no reservations needed. In the winter, miles and miles of groomed cross-country ski trails await us. In the summer countless clear, clean lakes beckon our kayaks, and in the fall brightly colored maple ridges make for spectacular hiking. And after a long day out in the North Woods, going to sleep while listening to the waterfalls and rapids through the open window — that is the best of all.


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