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10. Sun Valley Lodge - TravelStorys

Hemingway in Idaho's High Desert

Location Trip Time Travel Type
Idaho 1 hour

10. Sun Valley Lodge

It was after dark on September 19th, 1939, when my grandfather, Ernest Hemingway, drove up to Sun Valley Lodge in a dusty Buick convertible. He had driven from Wyoming and crossed the lava rock fields of southern Idaho as night fell, and he later said he would have turned around if he could have seen a place in the road to do so. Instead, he kept driving, and his late-September arrival began a 22-year love affair with central Idaho. He arrived with Martha Gellhorn, who would become his third wife, and he was arguably at the height of his literary career. By 1939, he had achieved national acclaim with the novels The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms. He came to Idaho with his typewriter in tow and the manuscript for what would become For Whom the Bell Tolls well underway. The Sun Valley Lodge was only two years old then, and it had not established an autumn season, but when Hemingway showed up, they quickly got him settled in Suite 206. Within days Ernest and Martha had nicknamed it Glamour House, and they regularly gathered with new friends there in the afternoon around what they nicknamed "Hemingstein's Bar". Hemingway's focus that fall was on his writing, but the afternoons and any days off were given to exploring the rugged Idaho terrain from the Salmon River to Silver Creek and the high desert and farms near Shoshone. Only five weeks after Hemingway arrived in Sun Valley that first time, in late October, his new friend Gene Van Guilder was killed in a hunting accident on the Snake River, about 80 miles south of Sun Valley. Papa was not part of that particular hunting excursion, but he responded compassionately to help his new family of friends deal with the tragedy. At the request of Gene's widow, Nin, he wrote a eulogy and delivered it himself at the little Ketchum cemetery. It is one of the few pieces that Hemingway wrote specifically about Idaho, and it conveys a rare intimacy with a man and a landscape he had just come to know: "Gene loved this country," he wrote. "He had a true feeling and understanding of it. He saw it with the eyes of a painter, the mind of a trained writer, and the heart of a boy who had been brought up in the West, and the better he saw it and understood it, the more he loved it." The next September, in 1940, Hemingway mailed the corrected proofs of For Whom the Bell Tolls from here in Sun Valley, and it was here that he received the rave reviews that followed. Within a single year, Sun Valley had become for him an important site of disciplined work, friendship and family, rugged exploration, tragedy, and celebration.

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