I never thought seriously about owning a cabin until I started pondering retirement. In years past, I always used local motels whenever I needed a place to stay while hunting or working on my tree farm, but as the time for retirement grew closer I realized that staying in motels for extended periods was impractical. I gave serious thought to building a cabin, but clearing a woodlot meant drilling a well, installing a septic system and hiring a contractor to build a place in the woods. This seemed daunting to me. So, after discussing this with nearby neighbors, my thoughts drifted toward buying something that was already constructed.

We found a place northeast of Brainerd that was originally a garage but partly converted into living space. We loved the barn look, and it was near our tree farm. The location was perfect, and we bought it. With the help of family, friends and local tradespeople, the dwelling was transformed into a very comfortable cabin. Our efforts included finishing the loft area, which has an open bedroom and/or play area and bathroom.

The cabin is situated on a small lake with our woods nearby. Going for a walk in the woods, riding an ATV or bike, cultivating a food plot, fishing or hunting, playing a game of golf, snowshoeing, or just reading a book — all are pleasures at our cabin. We can enjoy all outdoor activities, and still return to the modern conveniences of indoor plumbing, electricity and a full kitchen.

The highlight of any evening at the cabin is time spent by the fire. It always caps the end of a perfect day. Sitting around the fire with family, friends and grandkids adds to the pleasure in the wild. To make the campfire more inviting, we've added four seats from the Metrodome near the pit.

With the transformation from garage to cabin completed, our wilderness retreat now has the best of both worlds, and family and friends have a base for any activity. The phrase "solitude without loneliness" has been in literature in various languages for centuries. When I'm at the cabin, I experience those poetic thoughts. My wife refers to our cabin as "Dave's Paradise," and I'm fully in agreement with that statement.

Dave Eichers, St. Paul