Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finding Hemingway Part One

This past weekend was so fantastic. Truly one of the best weekends that I can remember. I spent it with my wife and two sons in the beautiful town of Ketchum Idaho. It wasn't the easiest of trips to begin with but before I get to the tale of woe I want to publicly thank the Blaine County Republican Women, especially Suzan and Trish for the support they gave to me and my fellow soldiers in Iraq this past year and for the amazing warmth and hospitality that they showed to my family this weekend, thank you.

In planning the route to take on a trip it usually comes down to one of two things: first, the distance and second, the scenery. However our route was planned by our dog Maggie. You see we weren't able to take her with us so we set up plans to have someone in our home town of Idaho Falls watch her but at the last minute those plans fell through and so I called my parents to see if they would do it. I actually knew that they would, they love Maggie but that is also the reason they weren't my first choice because I have a secret fear that one day they will snatch her and take her to Mexico or some other country where dognapping extradition laws are vague. At any rate Maggie was going up to the folks house and I had two choices: take Maggie up the night before or the morning of. Neither option seemed that exciting as it would add 60 extra miles on to my trip. So I sat and thought about it and it hit me that we could drive Maggie up, get lunch in Rexburg, and then go across the desert and see some of those pretty places we've never been to.

In retrospect I wonder if that is how the Donner Party started out, I can just imagine the conversation.
"Hey babe, why don't we take the Hastings cut off? We have to go that way anyway to drop the mining supplies off at your sisters."
"I don't know isn't it a bit dangerous this time of the year?"
"Oh we'll be fine. And besides it has great scenery. Maybe we can even grab a bite on the way."

With Maggie dropped off, lunch secured and iPhone map in hand we set off toward Arco via Mud Lake. It was a gorgeous day, the sun was bright and there were no clouds in the sky. We passed through Mud Lake and I commented that it would make the perfect setting for a good serial killer story. My oldest son wanted to know why it was called Mud Lake and being a good father I made up the best answer that I could think of.
"It's because there was a lake and now it is just filled with mud. In fact they only use it for mud wrestling and making mud pies."
Being the good son he is he immidiatly asked my wife if that was true and she just shook her head.
"He's just teasing you."
As we crossed the desert my passengers began to be absorbed in their iPhones and Game Boys. I had small tinge of envy wishing they would put some form of video entertainment in the steering wheel so I would have something to do while I drove.
Our first stop would be in Arco. Before the end of the Cold War the US Navy trained its sailors on nuclear submarine engines in the Idaho desert near Arco and to commemorate that past, the town of Arco received the sail from the decommissioned USS Hawkbill. I had read about it in the local paper a few years ago and always wanted to go out and see Satan's Submarine, but just had never had the time to go.
Jonah, Riley and Charity in front of Satan's Submarine in Arco Idaho.
From Arco we would be traveling to the Craters of the Moon national monument where my budding scientist Jonah could learn about the area's lava flows, my wild child Riley could run off his energy and the rest of us would enjoy some scenery. This route would continue taking us along the very flat part of the Idaho desert. But as I drove this route the odd thing I kept noticing was the large mountains with just a touch of the first snow and the beautiful leaves that were showing their fall colors in the big clumps of trees. This did not seem right but I kept seeing the signs saying "Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway" so I continued to assume I was on the right road. It was when I hit the town of Mackay and needed to stop for gas that I knew I had gone the wrong way.
"Babe I really messed up and I missed our turn." I confessed to Charity.
"I thought you were just taking another way, see you can still get to Ketchum from here." She showed me the map on her iPhone. There was a small blue colored route that cut across the mountains just a few miles out of town. The map program said it would be an hour and a half drive but it was only 45 miles and we assumed that the program was just being cautious.
Finally making the turn onto Trail Creek, after I once again missed the turn, we found that Trail Creek was a lovely two lane paved road with a 55 mile an hour speed limit. The mountains were craggy, dotted with aspen trees that were displaying bright yellows and reds and the road passed over a score of mountain streams. To put it simply it was beautiful.
"This isn't bad at all." I said confidently.
We passed a small wooden sign that said "Chilly Cemetery." We looked off into the distance and saw at the end of a washboard road a small fenced off cemetery nestled at the foot of a mountain.
"We're not taking this way back, we should go see it." Charity said.
I gladly turned the car in and slowly trundled along the bumpy road. Both Charity and I enjoy, in a very normal unghoulish way, roaming through cemeteries. There is something about seeing the names, especially those that have died too young, that resonates with me and my own loss. And there is also a wonderful art in the memorializing of a person and their deeds in stone.

Chilly Cemetery off of Trail Creek road
It was remarkable to both of us how, this final resting place that was so far off the beaten path, was so well kept. There was also a surprising mix of very old and sadly recent headstones. Not only were these people buried in a place of beauty their loved ones cared enough to make the trek on a regular basis for the upkeep.

We took several photos and finally loaded back into the car and headed down Trail Creek road. We were making excellent time until we came down the side of one of the many sloping hills to see a sign I had been worried that might crop up; "Pavement Ends." Our 55 MPH highway turned into a 35 MPH back-road littered with rocks of various sizes and jagged edges waiting with hungry eyes to take a bite out of our tires. Not only was our little Toyota Matrix already feeling very out of place, up ahead loomed a small one lane mountain road that we would have to take in order to reach Ketchum and find Papa Hemingway's house.
It didn't look good, but it could be worse.
"Babe, we just lost cell service." Charity said.

That's all the time for Write Now but come back soon for part two.


  1. i assume youre all right since youre writing this.

  2. Well you might be wrong, I thought Kevin Spacey was okay all throughout American Beauty but...

  3. I like it. Thanks for sharing. Quite an adventure you had. Glad the tires held up.