Diary of a COVID Refugee
Story and Photos by Larry Cohen
As soon as I got to the top of Dollar Mountain, the smaller ski hill at Sun Valley, I ran into a family of mule deer led by a big buck. It was one of my first adventures upon moving to Idaho in June 2020. Not knowing any better, I got a little too close to the buck and he grunted a warning at me. Then they all galloped off, leaving me stunned by what I had seen. It was far from the last time this place would leave me in awe.
I’m not afraid of change but I’m also not someone who jumps into something big without a long period of rehashing the possible outcomes—and I focus mainly on the scenarios in which everything goes wrong. So how did I find myself impulsively agreeing with my wife Michele to sell everything and move from Seattle, our home of thirty years, to Sun Valley? Michele and I did have some loose connections to the area, but I had been here only a couple of times and my memories were mainly of the “too darn hot” and “too darn cold” varieties. Also, the thought of permanently moving away from Seattle was not really a consideration while we were still several years from retirement.
A lot happened in February 2020—some of it prompted by the dramatic impact of COVID-19. My employer had just opened a brand-new state-of-the-art building and yet within days everyone was working from home. Then the major bridge connecting our residence in the peninsula of West Seattle to the rest of the city developed cracks and had to be shut down indefinitely, leading to traffic delays that were huge even though most people weren’t commuting.
When the pandemic hit, we both found ourselves motivated by how to best stay healthy. Michele’s main hobby is ice-skating, which she did extensively in her thirties, dropped for a while, and then picked up with renewed passion when she turned fifty. She had been skating three times a week but the bridge situation caused her trips to Seattle-area rinks to take hours instead of minutes. I love hiking and outdoor photography but suddenly, getting close to nature where we were had become far more difficult. Our thoughts started to wander to Sun Valley as a temporary destination while the virus raged.