By Adam Hlasny
As the calendar turns from April to May and the earth bursts into a new life, perhaps you’re reminded of your own life’s blessings. Small ones, like the soothing patter of rainfall as you drift to sleep or a sunrise that illuminates more than the landscape in front of you. Or, bigger ones such as the resilience to have survived a global pandemic, or having family with whom to weather the maelstrom.
If you are hitting the road with loved ones and you happen to be in the Upper Midwest, the Apple Blossom Scenic Drive might be just the escape you seek. Don’t be fooled by its brevity; there is a tremendous amount of beauty packed into its 19 miles. Besides, life is not about numbers. It’s about soaring high above the nation’s most famous river, about relishing fresh breezes on a perfect spring morn as you explore. It’s about not only admiring acres of fertile farmland but also partaking in the fresh produce it generates. It’s about spending time with the ones you love. Besides, if you want to extend your drive, this byway sets you up for a longer jaunt on the colossal Great River Road.
Beginning in La Crescent – the Apple Capital of Minnesota and first town over the bridge from Wisconsin – the byway loops north along curvaceous Route 1. Breathe in the scent of apple blossoms as you take your time and savor the miles. Nearby stops might include antiquing, a round of golf, or the stunning setting of Apple Blossom Park. This park’s grounds provide an ideal spot to picnic with Mom, Pops, or the whole clan. From this elevated perch, it’s easy to feel as if you’re an eagle.
The surrounding hills boast more shades of green than St. Paddy’s Day, but the panoramas presenting themselves to the east bring the scene from verdant to vertiginous. The Mississippi burbles below at the incomparable Great River Bluffs State Park, which lends itself to hiking, camping, birdwatching, and as much family-friendly fun as you’re up for.
You’re only a stone’s throw from the I-90 superhighway but today speed is the enemy. It’s time to slowly treasure what matters, the places and people who surround you. Who influences you. Who makes you, you. Whether the kids are in tow or it’s just you and a sister, an elderly parent, or even a prized pooch, the simple pleasures of this drive may have you reassessing your priorities, making time for those activities and people who matter. Because at the end of the day, sometimes the moments we remember most are indeed the simplest. The ones where we’re surrounded by beloved family.