For years I have wanted to travel the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive in Autumn. It’s a beautiful drive that takes you through the Kettle Moraine State Park as well as a number of cute, little Wisconsin towns. I was determined that this year we would take the drive. With my work schedule about to get crazy again, yesterday was our only opportunity to do it, so, despite the low clouds and almost constant drizzle we loaded up the van and took the drive.

The northern end the drive starts about 45 minutes east of where we live and immediately plunges into the Northern unit of the Kettle Moraine State Park, winding its way around kettles, moraines, and drumlins; all geographic formations caused by the glaciers of the last ice age. The picture below shows a kettle, which is a depression in the ground. It is created when the glaciers left behind huge blocks of ice. Those blocks got covered with dirt and debris and over hundreds of years, eventually melted. When they melted they left behind deep impressions in the land as the ground sunk along with the melting ice blocks. Many of these kettles filled with water and are known as kettle ponds. The landscape in this area is filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of these small, sunken ponds.

Of course, there we also passed a number of farm stands selling apples, squashes, eggs, and, of course pumpkins.

We are also blessed with the fact that we don’t live too far from Horicon Marsh. This giant marshland is a major stopping point along the migratory routes of hundreds of different species and millions of individual birds. It attracts everything from songbirds to pelicans, to various water fowl. We spotted these Sandhill Cranes in a farmer’s field looking for leftover corn to feed on.

For me the trip was somewhat nostalgic. Not that I had ever travelled these roads as a kid, but it reminded me of the “Sunday” drives we used to take back then. With our busy lives, and the price of gas nowadays, people don’t do that often anymore. It was a time when the journey was as important, or even more important, than the destination. A time to sit back, slow down and really look at the world around you. I know, for me, I don’t do that often enough.

Despite the rain and gloom we had a great time and even my 7-year-old daughter enjoyed most of the ride although by the end of 4 hours, mostly stuck in a car, she was ready for the journey to be over. Looking out, from our vantage point on Holy Hill, at the “National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians” I hope that we can make this an Autumn tradition, not only to stop and take in the beauty of Wisconsin, but to take a day to slow down and relax before the hectic pace of the holidays begin.

German Apple Pancakes
a perfect dish for a cool Fall morning

serves 4

3/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. grated whole nutmeg
3 each eggs
1 cup milk
2 Tbs. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract (almond extract also makes a good variation)

2 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. grated whole nutmeg
1 cup thinly sliced Granny Smith apple, peeled

Powdered sugar

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl and mix well. In another bowl, beat the eggs. Add the milk, sugar, extract and butter. Pour liquid ingredients into the dry and stir to combine. Set aside.

Pre heat your oven to 425°F. Heat a large cast iron (or other heavy skillet) over high heat and add the butter. Add the apples and sauté for 2 minutes, being careful not to break them up. Add the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Cook until the mixture starts to bubble then quickly pour in the batter.

Place skillet in oven and bake for 20 minutes. The pancake will puff up quite a bit then collapse on itself. When done, remove from oven and sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Slice and serve.