The next best thing to owning a cabin is having generous relatives who own a cabin — a special cabin.

Big Sis No. 3 and her husband bought the land in the '70s midway up the Gunflint Trail and decided they would never have a mortgage on a cabin.

Starting with a cheap pop-up camper for housing, they began to build their cabin. Work progressed as the money did. Most work was performed by the owners, sometimes a few relatives, and occasionally a local contractor. The cabin progressed over the years as did the visitors' log book. Some 35 years later, log book No. 3 is going, and the cabin is completed. The lake is located within a few miles of the Canadian border, is a short portage away from lakes of the Boundary Waters, and is near an outfitter and a resort (plus one of the best restaurants on the Gunflint Trail). Overflow guests can find accommodations at nearby national forest campgrounds.

They've progressed through dinner in the pop-up, an outhouse, campfires, board games, electricity, hot showers, TV with VHS tapes and DVDs, and now Wi-Fi. A quieter lake cannot be found. It's been 35 years of sweat and toil, laughter and family bonding while fishing, berry-picking, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, swimming, and listening to the call of loons.

Jim Roehl (Lil' Bro No. 1), St. Louis Park