The Oregon Trail

Cherry Valley

East of I-81, all the way to Albany, US-20 follows the route blazed by the old Great Western Turnpike over gradually steepening roller-coaster hills, past sweet-corn stands, dairy bars, and cabbage fields, and into the western reaches of picture-perfect Cherry Valley. Just south of the highway, the attractive little hamlet of Cherry Valley (pop. 497) contains a small local history museum. Cherry Valley Museum (49 Main St., 607/264-3303, daily summer-fall, $6) recalls this tiny crossroads’ early-19th-century boom period as a rowdy turnpike stagecoach stop. A small monument in the village cemetery on South Main Street pays homage to the residents killed in 1779 in the Cherry Valley Massacre, a British-backed Iroquois raid during the Revolutionary War.

Cherry Valley also holds a more recent landmark: The Tepee (7632 E. US-20, 607/264-3987), a 50-foot-tall tepee-shaped attraction, which has lured souvenir-starved travelers since 1950 with its array of Native American trinkets, famous TePee Taffy, and “Grand Panoramic View” telescope. A snack bar, a.k.a. TePee Pete’s Chow Wagon, has hot dogs and good chili.

Sharon Springs

The 19th-century spa and resort community of Sharon Springs (pop. 530), about 50 miles west of Albany, was once on a par with Saratoga Springs, its spas attracting as many as 10,000 visitors at a time. But for most of the past 75-plus years, the silent streets have been lined by the slowly crumbling remains of once-grand Victorian-era hotels. Sharon Springs has been kept alive thanks to its unlikely role as a seasonal escape for Orthodox Hasidic Jews fleeing the heat of New York City summers. Throughout the ups and downs, the sulfurous, supposedly health-giving waters have continued to flow, bubbling up into a small fountain in the small park at the center of town.

Sharon Springs seems ready for a revival. On Main Street, the white-columned hotels have been undergoing total overhauls. The stately American Hotel (192 Main St., 518/284-2105, $170 and up) has a good restaurant with a stylish cocktail bar. Guests can settle into comfy chairs lined up along the spacious front porch and watch the world go by.