It started with a friendship.

In the early 1970s, the Donlins invited us to their cabin on one of the Crow Wing lakes. We loved it, swimming to the raft, fishing, eating, laughing and swinging from the tree into the water. Mr. Donlin and son Pat taught us how to water ski.

Next door, a hilltop property with two uninsulated little resort cabins with stairs to the beach became available. The Donlins arranged with the owners for us to buy it. (Later, we invited other friends to buy the place beyond us.) From then on, this “Last Resort,” as we dubbed it, became our real home place. The small lake boasted a sandy beach, some state-protected land, and the promise of canoeing on the Crow Wing River.

Here, our family of six kids became most relaxed, most ourselves. Swimming, fishing, campfires with stories, songs, and marshmallows, beanbag toss and pingpong tournaments, volleyball and badminton — always with the Donlins woven in and out of festivities. We’d gather around the big table for meals and hang out on the dock most afternoons. We’d feed the hummingbirds and listen to the loons and watch them raise their young. We’d follow the arc of the eagle across the sky to its top pine roost. The glorious sunsets would inaugurate raucous night games — Pit, cribbage, Hearts and more.

Our family and the Donlins grew by marriages, bringing new children to grow up in life preservers and swim floaties, learning to fish off the dock and pontoon, and find their own paddling rhythm in the canoes. Then came the great-grandchildren, with our parents beaming at how this place and our friendship with the Donlins have kept on giving through the years, knitting us together with the infinite gift of the lake and its wildlife.

Marybeth Lorbiecki, Sartell, Minn.