Monday, January 22, 2007

The best drive within an hour of the Twin Cities

There is mainly one reason to visit the tiny village of Welch, Minnesota, and that's to ski the best downhill runs south of Duluth's
Spirit Mountain. There is a second more subtle reason, and it transcends season: It's the most beautiful drive within 45 minutes of the Twin Cities.

Sure, it's decadent to get in the car and burn off half a tank of gas just for the pleasure of seeing a sunset from some new perspective. But go ahead and save up your recycling and your moral markers, your carbon off-sets: freedom and restlessness are American birthrights, and you'll see some of the most gorgeous two-lanes in the rolling country between Cannon Falls and Red Wing.

The drive into Welch, whether you approach from the South or the North on Goodhue County 7, is inspiring. It's not exactly mountainous, but if you love the mountains of the East--not violent upsurges of volcanoes and shifting plates so much as ancient ruins blunted by wind, rain, and time--you'll love the broken bluff country around Welch.

From the North, you can take highway 61 off of highway 52, just north of Cannon Falls. Watch for County 7 South after passing through the bergs of New Trier and Miesville. From the South, take highway 19 east from Cannon Falls. This drive is one of our favorites anywhere: Rolling hills, far-reaching vistas, Victorian farms, and killer sunsets. In the summer, the alfalafa fields perfume the air around the Cannon Valley Trail, one of the most pleasant and soulfoul bike trails in the state. In the winter, park the car next to the Cannon river, and stroll on up to the little cafe and antique stores in "downtown" Welch.

Welch Village ski area,
Cannon Valley Trail,

Photo: (CC) by AFiler

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