Visiting the past

This hike was a very short one — only a half mile. But it was an important one for me.

In mid-August, I was invited up to long-time friends Nancy and Fred’s cabin in Wisconsin. Nancy is the editor of my blog. They own a cozy cabin near Minong, Wis. They discovered the area years ago after visiting our cabin. Their daughter Kiira was a good friend of my daughter Kelly.

A tale of two cabins

The Minong area holds many memories for Barry and me. When first married, we bought a rustic, little log cabin with no running water that sat high on a hill over-looking beautiful Little Gilmore Lake. We had so many fun times at that tiny cabin. Kelly, as a little baby in a backpack, went for hikes with Barry and me. Then Patrick came along. Whenever we made s’mores at the campfire, he would be covered with marshmallow from head to toe. Before bedtime, we would have to bring him down to the lake for a swim to wash away the sticky stuff.

This old cabin was magical. Sometimes late at night when I can’t sleep now, I think about it and try hard to remember the kitchen, the small porch where we ate and the tiny loft where guests slept. We were a young family with the whole world in front of us!

By the time son Mike was born, Barry and I were really getting tired of bringing the kids to the outhouse. It seemed like we spent half the day at the outhouse with them because they were afraid to there go alone! I don’t blame them — an outhouse can be a scary place to a little kid!So we sold the old cabin and found an especially nice property with two, falling-down cabins on Matthews Lake up in the same area. After closing on the property in late September, we sat on the beach, sharing a beer. We were so excited and full of ideas of what we would build on this land.
Barry’s passion

The new cabin became Barry’s passion over the next year and a half. We wanted post and beam construction. Barry found a good architect and every night after work, he poured over the plans, checking for any details he might have missed. When construction began, Barry started going up to check on it every Saturday. After a month or two of having all three kids all day every Saturday, I told Barry he should start taking busy Pat with him. So Pat and Barry got up early each Saturday for the three-hour drive to check on the cabin. I think this was a very special time for Pat and his dad. By the end of the year, Pat had his own little tool belt and felt like he was part of the crew. He could also climb dirt piles and get really dirty while Barry talked with the builder.The cabin was finished just as winter began. The first drive in on the icy gravel road was scary.

Ahead of us were years of fun with family and friends. Two of my favorite memories at Matthews Lake was one New Year’s Eve celebration with our friends the Becks. Our kids kept busy for hours building a really cool snow fort while the moms went snowshoeing for hours in our woods. There was sledding out in a big field, good food and skating on Barry’s famous ice rink. Kelly, our daughter, was a figure skater so Barry made a rink on the lake complete with a pump to spray lake water on it for a smooth skating surface. It was truly the best ice rink ever!

My second memory is the August I decided to go up alone with the kids. They were still little and not too involved in sports yet. Barry came on the weekends. I loved that August because we started each day with no plans. We painted signs, painted bird houses and did a lot of swimming! This was a peaceful, worry-free time.

Time marched on and soon the kids became very involved in sports so we unable to go to the cabin as often. One day Barry suggested that we sell. I said, “No way!” But after time and a whole lot of discussion, Barry broke me down and the cabin was sold. Before frontotemporal dementia (FTD), Barry could be very persuasive! For years after we sold the place, I would lie in bed and try to remember every detail of that cabin. I missed it very much.


I had not seen the place since the day we handed the keys over to the new owners in 1997 – 18 years ago. I had the opportunity to take a look several times during visits to other friends’ places in the area. Barry always wanted to drive in, but I couldn’t do it — I was never ready. But on this August day, I asked Nancy and Fred to come look at it with me. I needed moral support. We hiked down the road and saw a garage off in the woods that was not there before.

When we got to the cabin, the owners welcomed us to look around. The cabin looked a lot older. The property looked a bit sparser because more than 100 trees blew down in a storm a few years ago. Also, the yard was now bulldozed flat by the new owners, and the trees that remained blocked the view of the lake that we had loved looking at from the deck.

As I walked down to the dock, I realized that I wasn’t sad at all about it. I felt just fine. This wasn’t my place anymore, and I certainly couldn’t afford to keep it up now anyway. I could move on now. I was ready to look forward and not back!

I felt almost happy as we hiked back down the road to the car. I am pretty sure Barry has lost his memories of this cabin. He made it a very special place for us and for that I will always be thankful. I am lucky to have the memories, and I will keep them close to my heart for both of us!

Thank you Nancy and Fred for taking this hike with me!

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One comment on “HIKE FIFTY-SIX
  1. claudine coughlin says:

    Hi Nancy, Loved this Hike Fifty five. We had a cabin on Lake Koronis outside of Paynesville. We had it for 23 years and I have wonderful memories of being up at the lake. Tom had been diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease by the time we decided to sell. Our three sons had lives of their own and were not interested in buying it. I have not been back since we sold the place in 2002. Maybe someday! I am glad that you were able to visit yours. Fondly, Claudine

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