Coming to spend my summer in Idaho, 6,461 miles from my hometown of Montevideo, Uruguay, was unexpected. I first found out about this opportunity at the Henry’s Fork Foundation through a past intern from Stanford. I was attending peer advising hours for the Earth Systems Department, and Ilinca Popescu, a 2019 intern at HFF, told me about how she interned at a science-based conservation organization. I didn’t think much about this at first, but come February, I applied to this internship, and to Idaho I flew!
It’s currently the third week of my internship, and although I haven’t ventured into the famous Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Parks yet, I’ve had a chance to experience a part of the US I had never seen before.
On my second day here, my fellow intern Emma took me to Mesa Falls. The waterfall was beautiful, but I think that the surrounding canyon and forest was even more impressive. Actually, maybe the scenic drive, where you can see the Tetons peek up behind the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, was the most beautiful! Regardless, everything I saw that day was amongst the most immersive nature experiences I’ve had.
I returned to this scenic drive by Mesa Falls two weeks later, but this time during a spontaneous summer hail storm. I’ll admit, the barrier-less road was scary, but all I could think about was that my entire window view was just trees, trees and more trees! After the hail, came snow (in June!). The highways, for maybe 1 or 2 hours, were lined by a thin layer of slush. I’m sure this summer snow is incomparable to the winter snow here in Idaho, but for someone who’s from a country where it never snows, this was a very memorable experience.
The surrounding area to the Henry’s Fork doesn’t stop there. Island Park Reservoir, which is one of the most popular boating areas in the region, is my favorite place I’ve been to so far. Once a week, I’ve been accompanying my fellow intern Hannah to do water sampling at Island Park for her independent project. We’ve been surveying a few locations, where 2 are near the dam, 1 is near the water sport “hotspot”, and then, the farthest two, are near a bustling pelican colony. Despite the bird squawks, the pure silence experienced when we turn off the boat’s engine is like no other. This peace, complimented by the pastures on our right and Harriman Forest on our left, is a constant reminder about why conserving this natural beauty is so important.
Nonetheless, I think that the agricultural landscapes also have their charm. I’ve seen this side of Idaho mostly by walking and biking the Ashton-Tetonia trail. It used to be a railroad, and now it’s a dirt road that spans a little longer than a marathon’s distance. The start is just a few blocks away from the HFF campus, and although walking the entire trail is probably not something that lies in my near future, I have been able to make it to some cool spots. Using HFF’s bikes, I crossed Fall River, and then biked across Conant Creek. Above these two bodies of water are –what I’m guessing– two old train bridges. They might squeak a little and have some rust here and there, but the view down to the river, and the sounds of moving water, are very soothing. On the trail I’ve seen some goats and cows, wooden barn houses, and some abandoned tractors. It’s nice to get out of the building when work ends, maybe listen to a good album or podcast, and spend some time alone with your thoughts. I hope to be able to find some other cool trails near Ashton.
I think the independent project I’m working on will be a great opportunity to discover more of the Henry's Fork. I’m doing a review of all of the Foundation’s “on the ground” conservation projects, and seeing what their status is now. This means I’ll have to visit the sights, which span a very large area of the river basin. I’m very thankful that whilst learning about the Foundation’s conservation efforts, I’ll be submerged in landscapes that most people don’t get to experience.
In my next blog post I hope to write more about how my independent project progresses, and about any new adventures I’ve undertaken.
Island Park Reservoir
Bridge above Conant Creek on the Ashton-Tetonia Trail