Where does Michigan’s Up North start? If you know, you know

Let’s stop debating this already

NEW BUFFALO, MI - MAY 24:  'Welcome To Pure Michigan' signage along Interstate 94 in New Buffalo, Michigan on May 24, 2018.  (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)
NEW BUFFALO, MI - MAY 24: 'Welcome To Pure Michigan' signage along Interstate 94 in New Buffalo, Michigan on May 24, 2018. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images) (2018 Raymond Boyd)

Every summer, Michiganders debate the same topic online: Where does Up North start?

Back in 2019, we ran a poll on this question, and after thousands of votes and comments, there was one clear winner: The Zilwaukee Bridge. Other top answers included West Branch, the Grand Rapids-Flint line, past the Thumb and even the Mackinac Bridge.

But the more and more I think about this, I have realized that this isn’t a debate. There is no right answer. The correct answer is inside of you.

I think this really comes down to where you’re traveling Up North from, right? I’m in Detroit, so hitting the Zilwaukee Bridge does make me feel like I’ve entered Up North. But if you’re from, let’s say, Northern Oakland County, maybe West Branch is a better answer for you.

The Up North thing, to me, is tied to the moment you feel like you’ve left the suburbs or city life behind.

It’s when you start seeing more sky, more trees, more billboards for cheese and random beef jerky outlets.

It’s when the speed limit increases to 75, so you can drive 84. (I’m kidding, speeding is bad).

It’s when you hop off the freeway and visit a random town you’ve never heard of, or a ghost town with just a cemetery left.

It’s when you stop seeing signs for Flint or Saginaw, and start seeing signs for Gaylord, Mackinac, Traverse City or Charlevoix.

Or maybe it’s when you cross into the Upper Peninsula and hit the Lake Michigan US-2 Highway lakeshore drive and it feels like you’ve entered a different country.

It’s just a feeling. And no matter where that feeling starts -- at a bridge, a city or a road -- enjoy it.

A reader of the Morning Report Newsletter emailed me this morning and said she “feels” Up North when she drives through all of the evergreens on both sides of I-75 near Grayling.

“I just start breathing more slowly and more deeply,” Beth wrote.

Related: One-Tank-Trips: Share your favorite quick getaways from Metro Detroit

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About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital special projects manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013.