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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. 491) 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-ft-tall (15-m) 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. 528), about 50 mi (81 km) 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, $99 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.

New York Maps

Map of the Oregon Trail through Pennsylvania and Upstate New York.
Map of the Oregon Trail through Pennsylvania and Upstate New York.
Map of the Oregon Trail through Eastern New York.
Map of the Oregon Trail through Eastern New York.

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