Minnesota may have 10,000 lakes, but it's 1,000 miles from the nearest coast. Luckily, there's Lake Superior's North Shore, an area featuring jagged peaks, short, powerful rivers, and access to a 31,000-square-mile freshwater ocean. Bring every piece of gear you own to Tettegouche State Park, 60 miles northeast of Duluth. In a hiking mood? Lace up your boots for a seven-mile round-trip trek to Palisade Valley Overlook (trail information available at the park's ranger station; 218-226-6365). Looking to climb? Break out the ropes and 'biners on Palisade Head, a headland rising 200 feet above Lake Superior; there are dozens of 5.10-plus routes up the cliffs. Kayaking? Got that too. Rent a boat from Sawtooth Outfitters, in nearby Tofte ($50 per day; sawtoothoutfitters.com), and paddle five miles from the marina at Silver Bay past Palisade Head to the mouth of the Baptism River. When you've had your fill, the 47 lakefront rooms at Cove Point Lodge (doubles, $128; covepointlodge.com), in Beaver Bay, are a good place to recover.
ODE: Huge Statues
In no other part of the country do the World's Largest Paul Bunyan statues, giant musky statues, and six-pack-of-beer statues proliferate the way they do in the Great Lakes region. They are beacons born out of the Field of Dreams presumption: Build it large enough, and close enough to the road, and someone just might come. They reside in out-of-the-way towns like Pequot Lakes, Minnesota (fishing bobber), Ishpeming, Michigan (chain saw), and Mercer, Wisconsin (loon). They're protected as historic landmarks and adopted as symbols of community spirit. But that's not why I love them. I love them because they make me picture the eureka moment down at the pub in Vining, Minnesota, when someone said, "You know what this town really needs? A giant square knot," and then set to it. --Ryan Krogh