Route 209 in Wurtsboro, New York
Route 209 in New York State runs 60 miles from Kingston on the Hudson River end to Port Jervis on the Delaware River end. (It continues in Pennsylvania.) It is the oldest road in the U.S. built by the early Dutch settlers. The road -- really just a cart path back then called Old Mine Road -- followed the trail set by the Leni Lenape Indians, a tribe believed to be the oldest in North America. (source:

In the War of 1812 -- called by some as the Second War for Independence -- coal had to be transferred from the mines in Pennsylvania to the Hudson River for eventual transport to other parts of New York. A canal that ran parallel to Old Mine Road was built where coal, lumber, and other goods were floated on barges that navigated the canal. The canal was called the Delaware and Hudson (D&H) Canal.

During the Industrial Revolution, wagons and stagecoaches were replaced by the locomotive. The D&H Railway was built alongside the canal to replace the canal.

When automobiles and highways became widespread, railroad companies folded. The D&H Railway shuttered and Route 209 -- the same Old Mine Road that followed the trail the Lenape Indians created -- again became the chief passageway in the valley.

Although Route 209 is quite scenic -- the Shawangunk Mountains loom on one side while the Catskills rise on the other -- I never once thought of stopping to admire the view during the times I’ve driven there. It was for me just a means of getting from point A to point B.

But one early morning I saw the valley covered in fog and I stopped. I took pictures of a barn. Large empty wooden buildings that were once chicken coops are common in this part of NY State. I then explored the area and drove into an access path off Route 209 -- a dirt road heading into the woods -- that led to the D&H Canal Linear Park. The one-time railbed of the D&H Railway was still there but has been turned into a park ideal for hiking, biking, or bird-watching.

The following day, I came back again at sunrise. This time I stopped at a parking area also on Route 209. From across the parking area I watched the sun rise from behind the Shawangunk Mountains and cast an even glow to the surrounding valley covered in fog.

Sometimes highways are just that -- empty stretches of road in the middle of nowhere for people to hurry along inside their automobiles to get to where they’re going.

But sometimes they offer more. Highways provide glimpses to another time when ancient peoples roamed the same paths and maybe even marveled at the same scenery. And if we took the time to stop occasionally and be mindful of our journeys, learning along the way what history lurks beneath the roads we travel, then maybe we'd discover that getting there is really half the fun.

Click on a picture to enlarge.
Barn on Route 209 in Wurtsboro.
D&H Canal Linear Park. This path, once the railbed of D&H Railway, is now ideal for strolling or biking.
Portions of D&H Canal Linear Park are heavily wooded.
This might be the old canal.
Route 209 parking area.
A bit of history at the parking area.
Looking east from the parking area.
Looking west from the parking area.
After I was done shooting and all was quiet, I heard a faint sound of rushing water. I followed the sound and was led to this roadway.
Following the roadway I saw
As if to underscore the owner's seriousness, the sign on the tree says,
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