In 1990 we found 20 acres on an inland lake in Cook County, Minn. A Realtor told us about it, but she wouldn't take us to see it. It was too remote. You couldn't drive to it. If we wanted to see it she would give us a map and we could haul a canoe almost a mile over a portage into a lake and paddle in. Of course we went to see it!

At first we camped on the property. Then we began the process of hauling in lumber, cement and stoves to build "luxuries" that would make camping easier. Using a snowmobile in winter and a boat in summer, we dragged or floated in everything that could go through the woods and across the water. First we built amenities including an outhouse, a tent deck and a wood-fired sauna, followed by a 16-by-28-foot cabin with an interior that has mellowed over time as it collected wall souvenirs.

The best part of this place is the thumbprints all my friends and especially my father have left on the cabin. Dad built the cabinets, the doors, the tables and the wood box. He carved trout for drawer pulls and my sister painted them. My daughter and new son-in-law built a beautiful fire pit area from concrete, wood and stone.

It's been 24 years, all of them building memories that accumulate on the walls, in the cabin journal, and in the very structures of the cabin site itself.