I grew up on a farm in northwest Wisconsin. My parents built their home on 40 acres of woods so we never felt much of a need to experience nature. I never went camping until I was an adult. Rick, on the other hand, grew up in Milwaukee and camping up north (Minocqua/Eagle River/St. Germain area) was a regular weekend activity for his family - their way to experience nature. However, it was a long way to travel for that experience.
Rick and I have discovered in our wanderings that we really don't have to go that far for an "up-north" feeling. Give us tall trees and water and we're happy. And campsites that don't have us squeezed in like sardines.
Here are a few places we've discovered within an hour or two of Madison and Milwaukee that we would highly recommend if you're looking for that "up-north" feeling.
Ledge Park (between Horicon and Mayville) - a perennial favorite - has great sites with beautiful sunsets over the Horicon Marsh. (See my July 15 post for the sunset.)
Castle Rock County Park (on the Adams County side of the lake) was a recent find.
As was Indian Trails Campground in Pardeeville last week.
Yes, up north (and it really begins much farther north than Portage, regardless of what that community claims) is great. But when you can achieve that same feeling closer to home, why travel so far?