A honeymoon is that time of marriage overflowing with joy and replete with opportunities. Dreams woven. Secrets spoken. Plans laid.

It was no different for Mike and Maria Alderson during their short but sweet honeymoon at Petit Jean Mountain, Arkansas, following a St. Valentine’s Day wedding in 1987.

“We only had a weekend for our honeymoon,” Maria recalls, explaining why they selected a log cabin resort called Tanyard Springs that was near their home. “We discovered that we loved being in the log cabin and decided that weekend that someday we would have our own log home.”

While Mike built a career in the insurance industry, Maria became a teacher, along the way filling their attic with treasures that reflected their love for nature and the outdoors earmarked for use in their someday log cabin. However, for their first home they settled on a custom-built conventional home in Van Buren, Arkansas.

The couple became a foursome with the arrival of son Zach in 1990 and daughter Mikayla in 1996, and the nibbling wish for a log home slowly became a gnawing desire.

“When the children were little, I did not work outside the home,” Maria explains. “In 1996 Mike’s job gave us the chance to move to Conway, Arkansas, so we thought that could be the time to finally have a log vacation cabin.”

Maria was familiar with the area having spent languid high school summers with family friends nearby at Greers Ferry Lake, so the Aldersons began their search for the perfect piece of property on which their own memories could be etched.

“Finding what we wanted was not easy,” Maria recalls. “The Corps of Engineers controls the shoreline, so the chance of getting lakefront property with an actual view of the lake and not just a path from the lake to your home is rare.”

Even a dismaying failed acquisition did not completely derail their long-held hopes, so they decided to make a final excursion around the lake just in case.

“That’s when we found a lot for sale by owner,” Maria remembers. “It was a lot with full access to the lake and from it you could see the Little Red River and the Ozark Mountains. It even had a split rail fence. This was our place.”

The ideal spot called for the ideal cabin, so the Aldersons took their time researching log homes and choosing a company to design and manufacture their cabin.

“We spent months on the Internet comparing materials, packages, plans, and prices,” Maria says. “We even became concerned that we were not going to be able to afford a log home, but when we compared everything to a conventional home, we decided we were making the right decision to stick with our dream.”

Maria says that a visit to Honest Abe Log Homes in Moss, Tennessee, finalized their plans. “We toured the plant, met with the designers, and began working with Josh Beasley who was in the sales department then but is president of the company now,” Maria says. “He worked with us to merge the company’s Darlington and Dakota floorplans into a custom plan that encompassed what we wanted for our particular spot.”

Not satisfied with just living among natural surroundings, the Aldersons designed six-foot-wide porches that span both the front and back of the cabin so they could hear the sounds of the birds at sunrise, catch a glimpse of a doe and her fawn at dusk, and feel an unexpected soft summer breeze off the lake.

The Aldersons’ lot is dramatically sloped to the lake, which lent itself perfectly to a full-sized basement with nine-foot ceilings and an exposed exterior covered with rockwork by a local mason. They wanted to capture the lake, river, and mountain vistas, so third-story dormers on the front were in order, while massive first-floor triple windows, a glass door and two large windows in the gabled loft frame views to the rear.

“By the time we began building Zach was 13, so he was able to really help,” Maria says. “He and Mike were easily able to pick up the kiln-dried 8-inch round Eastern White Pine logs we used, enabling us to do some things ourselves, though we had a great local contractor named Jeff Ragland whose first log project was our home.”

With 2,800 square feet spread over three stories, Maria was not expecting the cabin to be energy efficient—a sacrifice she was willing to make for the realization of their 18-year-old dream.“We were shocked,” she said. “It could not have been more economical. We left the heat on all winter and the air on all summer, even during the week when we were back in our stick-built home in Conway, which was also 2,800 square feet. The cabin’s utility bills were consistently about half that of our primary residence.”

The cabin’s green nature is even more surprising considering that the first floor’s great room has a one-and-a-half-story vaulted ceiling, an open kitchen and dining area, and an open loft. “This just proves we did not have to sacrifice design for efficiency,” Maria observes, adding that she believes the choice of a heavy timber roof system and wood windows contributed to their many cozy winters and cool summers at the lake.

Mikayla, who was just six when construction began on the house, was paid a penny for every piece of trash she collected until, as her mother tells it, she “figured it out” and realized she was grossly underpaid. Her actual reward was occupation of the loft, and it was there she painted or entertained her guests, while her brother commandeered the basement, which sports a bath, game room, and two bedrooms for himself and his friends. “We had a house full of young people all the time,” Maria remembers with nostalgia now that both children are in their 20s. “No matter what the size, when you are in a log home, the stresses of the world fall away. It’s a whole different feeling.”

Maria said that her experience as a log homeowner led her to become an independent dealer for Honest Abe Log Homes and to start her own company, Arkansas Log Home Connection. “I’ve now helped dozens of homeowners have their own home,” she says, musing, “all because of our honeymoon dream.”