It’s hard to say when the dream takes hold.

It may be on a night so clear and dark that the Big Dipper makes you duck. It may be on an afternoon when your mental to-do list gets lost in the shimmer of the lake. Maybe it’s when you’re dripping with the honest sweat of a well-split woodpile, or chuffing great gusts into air as fresh as the snow on the ski trail.

Or maybe it’s when you slam the trunk on a vacation and join the clogged artery of southbound traffic.

You start dreaming of moving Up North. For good.

Granted, some Twin Cities residents are baffled by the idea of moving beyond top-flight theater, a 20-minute ride to the airport or a decent bahn mi sandwich.

Yet the dream is a powerfully magnetic notion for many others, drawn by a lake’s mesmerizing swells, the sharp scent of pine or the easy reach of a crisscross of trails.

A growing destination for dreamers is Grand Marais, Minn., a town of about 1,350 residents in Cook County, the arrowhead-shaped region bounded by Lake Superior’s North Shore, Canada and a connect-the-lakes landscape.

Despite holding great jobs in tempting cities, David and Amy Demmer couldn’t shake the North Shore from their fantasies. They want their young family to be a part of the town’s future, yet they also need to make a living.

More common are retired couples such as Duane Hasegawa and Barb Heideman, urban professionals who decided that living with less was worth the sacrifice if they could wake up to waves and woodpeckers.

Both families love where they’ve landed, but they field a genuine curiosity about the paths they’ve taken.

“The most common question I get is, ‘Don’t you get bored?’ ’’ David Demmer said. “And that just doesn’t register in my mind. There’s so much to do.”

Heideman has a bit less patience: “When people ask, ‘What on Earth do you do up there?,’ I’m just … ‘Never mind.’ ”