Retracing the Route of the
We had driven to Easton late the previous afternoon, and we began Day Three by returning there. Our first stop was the traffic circle at the heart of the city. Now dominated by a tall Civil War monument, it had once been the site of the courthouse from whose steps the Declaration of Independence was given its first public reading.
Our next stop was a park overlooking the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers. Traditionally, the forks of the Delaware had been the site of an Indian village. Not until 1752 had a European-American town been established there. By the time of the American Revolution, Easton had become an important center of commerce upriver from Philadelphia, and when Sullivan's troops began arriving in May and June of 1779 they found a well-established community that included about 150 houses, some of stone construction.
Rapid growth during the 19th and early 20th centuries had almost completely transformed the city. Yet there remained at least one remnant of its appearance in 1779—namely, the home of George Taylor, an iron master and a signer of the Declaration:
Our route out of Easton took us across Bushkill Creek. We then climbed a hill, which took us near Lafayette College. A few minutes later we passed a stone marker with the heading "SULLIVAN ROAD." Similar in design to the ones we'd seen at Geneva, at Kashong Point, and at Fort Augusta, this one identified the route "over which the army began its advance[,] June 18[,] 1779." As we continued around the bend, the road crested, and in the clearing beyond the trees we saw a billboard with "Sullivan's March" featured in the name of a new housing project:
During the next several days we would find references to the expedition strewn across the landscape. Some—as in the case of the billboard—bore no essential relationship to the events of 1779. But others were more suggestive.
For example, after returning to the stone marker we had just passed, we noticed that the side road bore the name "Sullivan Trail." Thinking that it might actually have been a portion of the original route, we decided to try it. Unlike the modern highway—with its gentle grades and generous curves—Sullivan Trail undulated and twisted in 18th-century fashion:
But it didn't take us far. Within a mile, or so, it rejoined the modern highway. For a few minutes we sat in the car, watching the traffic race by—as we had ourselves done a few minutes before. Like an oxbow lake, the side road had become separated from the mainstream. Now all its traffic was strictly local. But at least this stretch still existed, giving me a sense of the past I was trying to find.
On the highway again, we drove through the open, rolling countryside back to the village of Wind Gap. There we located another stone marker in the series, this one identifying the campsite after the first day's march. Unlike the others we had seen (and would see), its bronze plaque had been polished to a golden sheen. Two young men from a local cable company were filming it for an upcoming program, and while they were working, two boys stopped to watch:
Next we drove through the actual wind gap—a pass through the ridge that once served as the spillway for a glacial lake. Here we again crossed the Appalachian Trail, and as before we stopped for a short walk. Not until Tannersville did we reach the marker for the second night's campsite. As usual, we parked the car and explored. Also as usual, I took a picture:
But this time my photographic efforts led to an unpleasant encounter. In taking a second picture, I positioned myself just far enough from the marker for the slab of granite to fill my camera's field of view. "Stand in the road and you'll get flattened," a young fellow snarled at me from the window of his pickup as he whizzed by.
Although I couldn't be sure, I imagined his anger as resulting less from my actions, in particular, and more from general circumstances. Tannersville lies near Camelback Mountain, in the heart of the Poconos. As with Gatlinberg in the Smokies, tourists throng through Tannersville. But because its population is so low that our AAA guidebook didn't bother listing it, I suspect that local patience does wear thin at times.
Another feature of the Tannersville marker was its proximity to "The 1749 Alpine Inn"—which put me in mind of a book I had read a few months before. In driving his van "Ghost Dancing" around the United States, the author had deliberately followed back roads. Because atlases often mark such roads with the color blue, William Trogdon (whose pen name is William Least Heat-Moon) had entitled his book Blue Highways.
Trogdon tended to stop at places like the tavern in Tannersville, where he would talk with people like the young fellow who had shouted at me. Originally I had considered doing something similar—in which case I planned to follow Trogdon's advice "There is one infallible way," he noted in the book, "to find honest food at just prices in blue-highway America: count the calendars in a cafe."
No calendar: Same as an interstate pit stop.