This Northwoods cabin story begins 20 years ago. Until then I was a Minneapolis dweller for more than 30 years with a garden, trees and flowers to satisfy my love of the outdoors. But times change and life does, too. With children grown and moved away, I was divorced and alone in a house with a big yard. It was time for me to move, too. I wouldn't miss the house maintenance or responsibility, but the outdoors? Yes. So I rented a townhouse and went looking for land to spend my summers. I wished for a lake place where I could garden and listen at night to the comforting waves as they lapped the shore. I soon discovered that a middle-aged divorcee with limited income couldn't afford a lake place.

The helpful real estate agent suggested a different kind of place — a little rustic cabin in the woods. He told me that when the old "ma and pa" resorts sold off many years ago, a man bought one of the 18-by-24-feet cabins, dug a basement for it and moved it into the woods. Now it was for sale. At first I was reluctant, but I eventually said OK and have never regretted the purchase.

It was perfect for me. It still has the number "7" beside the front door and has indeed been my lucky cabin. Surrounded by aspen, pine, spruce, balsam, oak and a few maple, I am happy indeed. Instead of lapping water, I am lulled by the swaying soft branches of the giant white pine. When there are gentle winds, the rustling leaves of the tall aspen are my music. At dusk the fire flies dance through the edges of the darkened woods. Stars are clear and bright in the night sky. Birds wake me in the morning and loons call as they fly over on their way to nearby lakes. Days are spent tending the trees and walking the trails. I gather wildflowers for the front porch. I pick wild blackberries and raspberries for the breakfast of friends who sometimes come to stay.

It has been a haven for single friends and sometimes for one partner of a couple who just needs a little getaway from the other. It's a tiny cottage perfect for one, cozy for two and possible for three. For single friends who come to visit, the theme is work a day and play a day. Mary, a landscape painter, has come to help with various chores and then relaxes with her watercolors (like the cabin painting above). Karl, the engineer, has come annually for a week by himself to read and write. During his time alone here he has built a woodshed and helped with repairs. Loni is a painter extraordinaire of a different sort. She does windows, doors and porch decks.

Several years into cabin ownership I met someone who, like me, had been single for many years. He was a city boy, but when he cheerfully and willingly helped me plant 150 little tree seedlings, I knew he was a good man. We married. Though we still go north to the cabin, we are both older and don't take so enthusiastically to chain saws and shovels. My friends are older, too. As transition time approaches, I hope the cabin legacy will go on with another nature-lover who will value the cabin and woods as I have.

LOIS HALL, EDEN PRAIRIE

Tell us about your favorite hideout, be it a lakeside lodge or a huntng shack. Email your story along with photos to cabins@startribune.com. Don't forget your name, city of residence and the general vicinity of your cabin or campsite.