Northern Minnesota is unique in that you can travel from end to end in an easy day. The approachable size of the three regions that comprise our northern territory enable any resident or visitor to wake to the crashing waves of Lake Superior to enjoying the epitome of a farm-to-table lunch on the country side. But, we'd be lying if we said we'd encourage that. 

When it comes to driving through northern Minnesota, my mind instantly wanders to the tree-lined dirt roads, twisting along the calming shoreline and up along the riverbeds. I think of hazy sunsets, roaring fires with the North Star and constellations above... our voices lost in the crackle and burn of dried timbers foraged from the woods around us. All discovered from an uncharted adventure and a map with gridded topographic sections, marking most of the 10,000+ lakes, intricately depicting unmarked logging roads, the campsites and waterfalls tucked away like hidden gems deep in the backcountry.

I believe that northern Minnesota embodies the idea of pure untamed wilderness, with locations only reachable by back roads, most commonly taken by timber loggers and the occasional explorer, seeking destinations often unknown and even less commonly visited. Some roads seem to cut deep through the woods, shrouded by trees and a sort of darkness. Others, it's wide open, where the lakes look endless, just as the open road. It offers a quiet solitude from the hurry of our day-to-day lives. 

Growing up in northern Minnesota, I stumbled upon many back roads and lesser-known routes - the ones where you're able to leave the cars behind for miles. These were mainly found near the towns I knew well, but discovering new paths, hidden roads, trails and lakes that connect the towns have become a growing interest to me as my roots widen here in Minnesota. 

Always looking to embody the mantra "it's the journey, not the destination," the co-founders and I of Lake + Co. hit the road, with little to no set direction, to discover just what makes our lake towns so unique.

1761 miles of back roads, 27 towns, 4 moose crossings, and one 1966 Serro Scotty vintage camper and three weeks later we came back totally amazed by each and every single town that we visited and the people and the businesses that we got to know. So much so, that we decided to devote an entire issue just to our towns, the people and culture that hold our history and the places untouched by modern technologies. This is the land of unexpected opportunity and the landscapes around every corner offer true exploration of this 'neck of the woods.'

In the following pages you'll find your guide on where to eat, stay, play, and shop that are all worth checking out, Lake + Co. certified. Or if you live here, you may enjoy getting to know your local makers and small business owners by visiting some of these spots or community events nearby. 

As a maker myself, I find it inspiring that entrepreneurs, shops, farms, and restaurants are collaborating and continually working on new projects which support our local economy and environment while educating our community on growth sustainability. On the rise in Minnesota is a creative movement of craftsmen and women, artisans, chefs, and home-grown, family-run businesses, and... it's an encouraging site to see!

So head north, slow down, take that trip, Lake Time style, and see for yourself!