For me, a cottage (or cabin?) connection started with Grandpa and Grandma's place in 1965. After much life and dreaming they bought their cottage on Presque Isle Lake in Vilas County in Wisconsin — the Last Wilderness, the Walleye Capital of the World — just five hours from our house in Madison. I still have the photo of Mom, pregnant with younger brother, Tom, standing with a smile on the dock.

For my wife, it started with family vacations near Park Rapids, Minn., or Nevis or Akeley. They rented a cabin for a week or two, and if they liked it they would return.

Both of us share many rituals and memories: Hum of the outboard motor, spooky call of the loons, sun reflecting off the water on the ceiling, swimming after dinner, wind through tall pines, relaxing on the screen porch, midafternoon fishing excursions, bamboo poles, casting off the dock until late night (and once, an impromptu ear-piercing with a Rapala), and carving walking sticks from poplar saplings.

Now, we visit Mom's cottage, friends' cabins, and find our own resort rental escapes, keeping alive some of the old traditions and making new ones, too. The accompanying photo is of Musky Lodge on a lake near Presque Isle. We spent many an early fall vacation here, but just this year we learned it was sold to a private family. The Northland seems to always have a cottage somewhere, though, and we found one to rent back this year on Presque Isle Lake.

The cottage (if you're from Wisconsin) or cabin (Minnesota) is a concept as much as a place, and whatever you call it, it is vital to our joy. The pursuit of the magic of the Northwoods continues.

Steve Brissee, Minneapolis