The Lake Culture: Up North

Culture Travel Tuesday

Lake at twilight

Destination: Michigan

By Jessica Voigts

(Note from VMB: World wide, I have spotted places where people go to get away.  In Russia, it is dachas in birch tree woods or near water; in Sweden we visited a summer home made from a farmer’s outbuilding, which turns out to be a popular way to craft a rural cabin; in Italy, people flee to the rows of beach chairs lined up along stretches of sea; in Arizona, we flee to San Diego beaches or northern Arizona cabins; and in the midwestern and eastern United States, particularly, there’s the Lake Culture.  As we say farewell to summer, Jessica Voigts brings us a view of the Lake Culture in Michigan.)

Here in Michigan, as in Minnesota, there is a strong culture of Up North…of heading Up North to the lake – your cottage, or fishing, or exploring the wilderness that Northern Michigan and Northern Minnesota possess in abundance. Michigan is called the Great Lakes State, and fronts four of the five Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie), in addition to having over 11,000 inland lakes. In Minnesota, Land of the Lakes, there are over 12,000 inland lakes and one Great Lake coastline (Superior).


Each Friday in the summer, you’ll see large amounts of traffic disbursing from the urban areas and heading Up North. While some tow large boats, jet skis, or ATVs, others drive RVs or haul campers. Cars are packed to the brim with coolers, tents, kids; kayaks perch atop, while bikes are stuffed on the rear bike racks. It’s a mass exodus to nature. On Sundays (or Mondays, on a holiday weekend), the traffic reverses – and you’ll see tired, sunburned, happy families heading home to their daily lives, already planning another weekend Up North.

In the winter, the traffic Up North is a bit different – ice fishermen, snowmobilers, and a plethora of skiers. Ski racks are filled to the max with skis and snowboards, trailers carry snowmobiles, and plenty of winter gear fills the cars.

Up north bannerIt’s a cultural thing – a way of working nature and play into this modern world. It gets in your blood, Up North, and when your responsibilities keep you tethered at home, you’ll start chafing at the bit to escape. We’re lucky to have this option of escape to nature so readily available. And in stores Up North, you’ll see Up North gear – personalized by town, or hoodies that say Lake Girl. There are other ways to bring Up North home – from carved wooden bears and moose decorations to signs stating “I’d rather be at the Lake.”

My family has a cottage Up North. It’s a second home, and I’ve spent my whole life vacationing there. It’s near Lake Michigan, on a smaller, inland lake. We have kayaks, a speed boat, a pontoon boat, paddleboats, sailboats, and even a windsurfing rig.

speed boat

Every 4th of July, we watch the fireworks over Lake Michigan. Every summer, we spend countless hours in Lake Michigan and on the lake at our cottage. And while we also live on a lake home, and swim several times a day in the summer, and fly kites and ice skate on the windswept frozen lake in the winter, my family still loves to head Up North. Up North is not only outdoors – it’s also friends and family, great meals, campfires and sparklers, climbing dunes, water, and building memories to carry you through the work week.

sunset on lake

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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

6 thoughts on “The Lake Culture: Up North

    1. Our summer lake was Lake Erie when I was growing up in Ohio. But with your gorgeous photos, I’m longing to get back to a lake–any lake about now.

  1. Loved the “Up North” article. I’m originally from MN, but have been going to Michigan with a friend for the past 3 years…and just returned from “up north” where we spent time at the lake cabin not too far from Traverse City. Lovely photos. Makes me wish I was still there. Thanks for sharing.


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