Most native Wisconsinites have an inbred understanding of what it means to go “Up North.” But for those of you who always wondered, I’ll let you in on our little secret: Summertime isn’t complete without an Up North getaway.
Keeping in mind that each family has its own variation on the Up North experience, here’s a guide to get you started:
1. Pack up your car and drive at least two hours (preferably four or more) in a northerly direction. You will know you’ve driven far enough when the number of lakes you go by surpasses the number of streetlights. Clusters of white hand-painted roadside signs in the shape of arrows and an abundance of wildflowers along the highway are other telltale signs.
2. Your destination is a cabin, cottage or campsite in close proximity to a natural body of water (stream, river, pond, lake).
3. A charcoal grill, cast iron skillet and Swiss Army knife are your most valuable cooking tools. Typical fare consists of the fresh catch of the day, baked beans and camp potatoes.
4. Common activities include: wading in the water, jumping off a floating raft, napping in a lounge chair, reading books and playing card games. For the more adventurous outdoor enthusiast, canoeing, fishing, hiking and water skiing are popular.
5. In the evening stargazing, campfire building, storytelling and s’more making are the main attractions.
6. Up North isn’t for the faint of heart. There will be bugs – of the crawling, buzzing and biting varieties. But a far greater challenge for others is being unplugged. Spotty cell phone coverage and scarcity of wi-fi means an inability to text, email or peruse your facebook newsfeed.
7. Be outdoors and reconnect with Mother Nature. Sit on a pier dangling your feet to feel the cool water on your skin. Take a walk down a dirt road or follow a deer trail as it meanders through waist-high ferns. Breathe in the scent of the woods, the sandy soil, mossy bark and berry blossoms. Listen to the wind moving through the forest, rustling the leaves and whistling though the pines.
Outdoor columnist Sam Cook captures the true essence of the Up North experience in his essay titled, “Urban Relief”:
“When you are out there, so many other good things happen that you never predict. You see loons dance and hear the whitethroats sing. You get dirt in your food and listen to noises in the night and feel small again. And that’s good. It’s good because it reminds you where the real world is and what it’s made of. Its water and wind and wonder, not the electrical box that glows blue and orange in the corner of your living room.”