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The Old Man and the Potato – Hemingway in Idaho

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Ernest Hemingway’s Master Pieces

Ernest Hemingway might have gained fame for his escapades in Spain, Cuba, Italy and Africa, but the final years of his life were spent in Idaho. He first came to the Sun Valley region in 1939, and was a frequent summer visitor for years before buying a house and settling down permanently in 1959. But he didn’t stay for long; on July 2, 1961, he shot himself in the head in his Ketchum home.

Grave-of-Ernest-Hemingway

Like every American fascinated by foreign lands, I’ve read many of Hemingway’s novels, and considered myself fairly familiar with his life. But I had never known about his relationship with Idaho, nor the fact that he died here, until our visit to Sun Valley. When you think “Hemingway”, Idaho is certainly not the first place that springs to mind. But perhaps it should be. Hemingway loved it here; the nature, the skiing and the hunting all fit nicely into his concept of paradise.

Hemingway first arrived in Idaho on the invitation of Averell Harriman, who wanted to bring a bit of celebrity to his new ski resort. As a favored guest, Hemingway spent summers hunting and fishing, and throwing raucous parties in the Trail Creek Lodge with friends like Gary Cooper. He returned year after year, and during the troubled final years of his life, chose Ketchum as his home.

For a town of its size, being the resting place of America’s most famous novelist should be a huge deal, but classy Ketchum never overplays its hand. There’s a small memorial bust of Hemingway overlooking his beloved Trail Creek, and a couple pictures around town, but you could conceivably spend a week there without knowing that you’re in the same place that Hemingway lived and died. Even his grave in the town cemetery is an understated tribute. Just a flat plaque on the ground. When we visited, there was an old, weather-beaten copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls and a couple bottles of beer left on top of the grave in his memory.

When Sun Valley’s publicist Gene Van Guilder died in a hunting accident, Hemingway composed a eulogy about his friend’s appreciation for nature. But the verse was so lovely, and applied so well to Hemingway himself, that it’s been inscribed underneath his memorial bust at Trail Creek. It’s not hard to see what attracted the great man to Idaho, but let’s allow him to explain…

Best of all he loved the fall
The leaves yellow on the cottonwoods
Leaves floating on the trout streams
And above the hills
The high blue windless skies
Now he will be a part of them forever

Hemingway Kick
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November 25, 2012 at 12:05 am Comment (1)

Obscuring the Sky – Idaho’s Devastating 2012 Wildfires

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Smokey The Bear

The month that we arrived in Idaho was a month of fire: August 2012 saw the state’s worst wildfires in more than a decade. Thankfully, we were never directly affected by the flames, but their smoke was a constant companion, obscuring the normally clear blue skies of the Northwest behind a heavy screen of haze.

Old-Bridge-Idaho

The smoke was at its worst during our days in Riggins and Lewiston, due to the proximity of the fires burning in the Nez Perce National Forest. But although we couldn’t see as far as normal, the skies were entrancing; everything tinted red as the sun fought to shine through the smoke. Beautiful, but I’m not sure it was the most healthy air to be breathing during our hike in the Rapid River.

Of course, bad air and spoiled views were petulant things to complain about while hundreds of thousands of acres were burning and people were fleeing their homes. Even losing their lives. 20-year-old Anne Veseth was among the brave firefighters battling the blazes near Orofino when, on August 12th, a tree fell on top of her. A tragic reminder that the costs of these fires are incalculable.

A useful website for the current state of wildfires is InciWeb – The Incident Information System. Well worth checking out, if your trip to Idaho coincides with wildfire season.

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Tree Hill Smoke
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October 1, 2012 at 4:36 pm Comment (1)
The Old Man and the Potato - Hemingway in Idaho Ernest Hemingway might have gained fame for his escapades in Spain, Cuba, Italy and Africa, but the final years of his life were spent in Idaho. He first came to the Sun Valley region in 1939, and was a frequent summer visitor for years before buying a house and settling down permanently in 1959. But he didn't stay for long; on July 2, 1961, he shot himself in the head in his Ketchum home.
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