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Milwaukee Magazine Writers Explore What Makes Going Up North In Wisconsin So Special

No matter where "Up North" means for you, getting outside and into nature is a key part of the Wisconsin tradition.
No matter where Up North is for you, getting outside and into nature is a key part of the Wisconsin tradition.

When summer finally hits, a familiar refrain returns to the lips of many Wisconsinites: "I’m going Up North for the weekend." Now, the term “Up North” can be geographically different for each person, but the pastimes are nearly universal: fishing, swimming and enjoying the great outdoors after a winter spent braving the cold.

In the latest Milwaukee Magazine, writer Kevin Revolinksi and executive editor Chris Drosner dig into the many things to enjoy Up North in Wisconsin.

“[Up North] is a state of being, I think in Wisconsin, you’ve gone through a long winter, you’ve been indoors, you’ve been in school and there’s this grand release of the summertime,” says Revolinski. “You’re at the lake, maybe at a cabin, spending time fishing, enjoying the wind blowing through the long-needled pines. There’s just something really captivating about that.”

He says there is also a simplicity to the experience. Drosner adds that going Up North is a form of escape and allows for a level of relaxation that can’t be achieved at home.

“There’s some kind of release of the kind of pressures of day-to-day life. I think that’s a big part of it,” says Drosner.

But Wisconsin offers many different kinds of destinations that can be categorized as Up North. For their article, Revolinksi and Drosner designated east, central and west as the three regions of northern Wisconsin.

Milwaukeeans may be most familiar with the east region as it just requires a trip up the Lake Michigan coastline to visit. Revolinkski says that visiting waterfalls and numerous opportunities for berry picking are highlights of this area and recommends Cathedral Pines State Natural Area as a great destination.

“It’s this big stand of old-growth forest that was never logged off,” he explains. “The different between old-growth and, you know, a forest that’s been logged is pretty amazing. Some of these trees are like 400 years old.”

In the central region, lakes are the dominating force, according to Drosner. He says fishing, boating and camping are staples for people going Up North in this area.

While there are many opportunities to find remote areas, completely separated from other people, Drosner says places like Minocqua are great to find a larger community holding events throughout the summer like meals at the supper club or the water ski show.

“Minocqua is really the center piece there,” he says. “So it’s not just people out in there cabins in the woods.”

In the west region, Drosner says there are still lakes but that the most important water feature becomes rivers — like the St. Croix and the Namekagon. He says traveling down these rivers offers both glimpses into the remote and the settled in towns like Hayward.

“You could get on a river like the St. Croix and paddle for miles until you actually go under a bridge and then you’re back into the woods again and there’s just nothing,” he says.

While the experiences in nature bring mosquitos no matter where you travel in the state, Revolinkski says, the connection between the outdoors and traveling Up North is what makes the tradition so special.

“That’s really what separates it from kind of our day-to-day life and makes it so special is that you’re on a lake, in a lake, you’re in the woods, you’re walking through this kind of intensely nature experience that I think that’s where the rubber meets the road Up North,” he says

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.
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