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Gone Fishing

Life on and off the waters of the Wood River Valley

Take a Damn Staycation!

Sep 18, 2012 - 12:55 PM
Take a Damn Staycation!

Stanley Lake

The best advice I ever got about living in a ski town came from my boss at the time, a short fiery native Spud named Mark Fisher.

“The only way you’re ever going to be happy living in a ski town is if you occasionally take a vacation and don’t go anywhere,” Fisher said, about a decade ago, from across the pick-up window at the Sun Valley Brewing Company and Café in downtown Hailey—where I was running the bar during my first go-round in the Wood River Valley.

“Sometimes you’ve got to play tourist too, and remember why you live here,” explained Fisher, who usually had a head and face full of dirty blond hair, and who tragically passed away a half-dozen years ago while driving down one of the old dusty Idaho mountain roads he loved so much.

As he handed over a homemade Wurst sausage and mashed potato plate for a patron he sternly stated,  “Otherwise you’re gonna be miserable, and nobody wants to be around somebody who’s miserable. Got it?!”

A photo of Mark Fisher is proudly displayed on the wall at Mahoney's in Bellevue.Fisher then told me to take the next week off, to take a “damn staycation”—paid, of course, because that’s the kind of generous guy he was—and to pretend that I, much like many of the people I regularly served, was a “touron” too. And that’s exactly what I did, specifically because Fisher (who had forearms that Popeye would be jealous of and was an acclaimed big game bow hunter) wasn’t the type of guy who takes “No” for an answer.

For the next seven days I was then lucky enough—even if forced to do so—to enjoy the playground that any “destination ski resort” worthy of such a romantic title is.   

And since Sun Valley is the country’s first such ski resort it naturally offers all kinds of magical places to go outside to play no matter what season it is. While I’ll always love some of the other resorts I’ve had the blessing of hanging my hat in for a while—especially Taos and the Eastern Sierra’s Mammoth Mountain—Sun Valley will always be my favorite.

As I often hear when interviewing or even just shooting the breeze with locals, second homeowners or just those simply making a sojourn in Sun Valley, there’s something magical about this place (actually, there are numerous things: world class skiing, hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, food, art galleries, literary culture, mountain views, plus it’s a great place to raise kids).

But it’s easy to forget all this when you’re just another overworked ski town local trying to survive the tourist season. For all the beauty and glory, it can be tough to make it in most ski towns—even living in paradise requires some sacrifices.

That’s why Fisher’s order—make that advice—to stop and literally smell the roses or the fresh snow or the squirmy fish or the blooming sagebrush or my own sweat while hiking or biking in this breathtaking place is the best I’ve ever been given. And one any ski town local could make good use of: “Take a damn Staycation!”

“Life is hard, it’s harder if you’re stupid.”—John Wayne


Sun Valley Magazine encourages its readers to post thoughtful and respectful comments on all of our online stories. Your comments may be edited for length and language.

Old to new | New to old
Sep 14, 2012 08:40 am
 Posted by  A.B.

Great article, Mike. We all need to be reminded to take a break. I'm going to heed your advice.

Sep 17, 2012 04:26 pm
 Posted by  Mac

Thanks, A.B. Taking some time to enjoy where you live is always good advice.
And thanks for all the other nice comments, via Facebook, email or in person, about this blog and the man who inspired it.

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About This Blog

Whether he’s being out-fished by his trash talking mother-in-law, guiding one of his young sons through the perils of manhood or finding inspiration from the people of the Wood River Valley, Mike McKenna’s award-winning writing is always sure to entertain. Order a copy of Mike's highly-acclaimed book, "Angling Around Sun Valley: A year-round fly fishing guide to South Central Idaho" from Silver Creek Outfitters.

Gone Fishing's awards include: "Best Blog" 2010 & 2011 by the Idaho Press Club, "Best Web-only Article" of 2011 by the Outdoor Writers Association of California and "Best Fishing" & "Best Humor" blogs of 2012 by the Outdoor Writers Association of America.


"Angling Around Sun Valley" was selected as the "Best Book" of 2013 by Northwest Outdoor Writers Association!

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