Jennifer Brooks
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It's Minnesota. We're all north of somebody.

But how far north do we have to be before we're "up north?"

It was Reed, @TheSotaSwede, who asked the hard questions.

"Up north" is probably not a term you use if you live there.

Hard to chart, easy to feel. Up north is the rustle of the breeze through tamarack. The clink of shoreline agates underfoot. The high-pitched whines from the back seat from kids on hour four of a five-hour road trip.

Stakes were low, passions were high. Minnesotans took to social media with maps and pointers to settle the question once and for all: Are we there yet?

Back and forth, the border shifted. Brainerd was in, Brainerd was out. OK, let's face it, almost nobody thought Brainerd was in. Except me. If you have a Paul Bunyan statue or a blue ox, you're my true north.

But don't take my word for it.

"Brainerd is the gateway to the north," said Brainerd Mayor Dave Badeaux. "Once you get here, you have reached the north."

Up north is more of a vibe than a point you can plot on a map, in Badeaux's book. Let social media argue about whether anything south of U.S. Hwy. 2 can be considered up north. Brainerd knows where it is.

"It's beautiful up here," he said. "When you start talking about Paul Bunyan, when you start talking about beautiful lakes, what better place than Brainerd?"

The federal government's map of the northern forest territory in Minnesota encompasses the entire northeast corner of the state. The EPA reckons we shift from eastern temperate forests to Northwoods somewhere around the neighborhood of St. Cloud. You're not helping, EPA.

Your north is not my north. My north starts at the first sighting of Paul Bunyan statuary and ends whenever we get near a Dakota. North is north. Prairie is prairie.

But remember. This is Minnesota. Wherever you are, you're somebody's true north.