Richfield, Idaho. Population 485. A laid back, central location to points of interest. Only 50 minutes from Craters of the Moon National Monument in one direction, Twin Falls 30 minutes in another, and Sun Valley just one hour away.
Richfield is the kind of place one grows up in or marries into. It’s not the type of town to which people flock to visit or live. There is no quaint downtown with antique shops, souvenir stores, or freshly-made fudge. But the townsfolk are friendly and are happy to share their stories. They greeted us with kindness but were probably happy to see us leave after our four-day invasion.
A cheese factory, Glanbia, sits on the southern edge of town with a Mormon church on the northern end. Main Street has a convenience store that serves ice cream, a hole-in-the-wall saloon, a locally-owned bar and grill right across the street, a small grocery store with reasonable prices, a post office that is open 10am-12noon Monday thru Friday, and machine shops and repair places one usually sees in small towns. It’s the kind of town where people serve multiple roles.
Ron Holland has lived in Richfield for 63 years and has been married for 45. He’s retired and spends his summers tending his 60 tomato plants for canning and freezing, and spends his winters commuting to Sun Valley to lead a horse-drawn sleigh for tourists. He retired from the state highway department, but he also served many years on the town council and was Richfield’s fire chief at some point. He might have even been the mayor a time or two. In his younger years, he participated in Team Roping—a popular sport in the rodeo world.
His wife still teaches at the local school, and we met his nephew, Mason, who is a high school senior this year—class of 17 (students, that is). When we met him, he was searching for the school walking stick—an annual tradition where the stick is hidden somewhere around town by a teacher, and the first high school grade that finds it wins honors and recognitions only high schools can bestow. Mason’s class had found it three years in a row, and they wanted to be the first class ever to find it all four years.
Mason has already started wearing his multiple hats for the town. He works part time in Sun Valley, and he has been serving as a volunteer firefighter for the past couple of years. He plans to go to college down in “Twin” [Twin Falls] and hopes to live there while attending school to get out of town for a while (a sentiment with which I can identify).
There’s a long history of firefighting in his family—father, grandfather, uncle, etc.—and he plans to get a degree in Fire Science to eventually become a Fire Investigator. He shared a few of his stories—some harrowing experiences extinguishing blazes. He’s young and passionate and will move back to Richfield after college to carry on family traditions and keep Richfield alive and thriving.
There is evidence of the rugged cowboy atmosphere. Cows and horses corralled in people’s front yards, overgrown stadiums on the edge of town stalwartly waiting for the stands to be filled with rodeo spectators. A home-grown shooting range in an old gravel pit on BLM land not far from Unhenge Park, which is used to get ready for hunting season. A hand-painted sign declares the 2nd Saturday of June to be Outlaw Day—a local rodeo event held each year.
Unhenge Park, our home for four nights, is a small RV park on the eastern edge of town. Several fairly-level gravel spots, no hook-ups, no bathrooms. (A dump is provided by the town just a few blocks away.) Just a place to set up camp for up to seven days. Locals drive through on their way to and from the BLM land where they hang out, fish, swim in a nearby creek, practice shooting, or sing to music from their car radios.
While boondocking in Richfield, we visited Craters of the Moon National Monument and Sun Valley. It gave us a glimpse of the diversity of the landscape (vast lava fields to ski slopes) as well as the diversity of the local population (born and bred ranchers in small, sprawling towns to transplants in high-tourist areas).
Unhenge Park is so named by the locals—Ron being one of them. When he and a few other townsfolk developed the park, they arranged some boulders in a round formation as part of the park’s landscape. Since it is NOT really a replica of England’s Stonehenge, they named the park “Unhenge.” Just a bit of folklore for this quintessential small western town.
As a parting gift, Ron brought us Idaho potatoes from a nearby field, tomatoes from his garden, and a few peaches from his tree. We are still enjoying some of this bounty, a kind gesture from a new and friendly acquaintance.