Adieu Ashton

Tuesday, August 22, 2017 - 11:15am


Zac Espinosa

“Step. Step. Suffer. Suffer.” was the mantra of Elliot and I as we climbed the Grand Teton two weeks ago. During the fifteen mile round trip discomfort became our constant companion; when our pain momentarily lulled and thoughts of life other than survival would rush back I began asking myself why we sought the summit. We looked to the peaks knowing that our time on the summit must be met with its eventual departure. If one step leads to pain why take another? Perhaps it is as Aeschylus says: “ He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart. And in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom.” We suffer because by confronting pain we strip life until it is bare and exposed; until nothing is left but that universal struggle of you versus yourself, and out of the wreckage we welcome a better, wiser you.

This summer I worked at the Henry’s Fork Foundation (HFF) on the Sonde Automation Project. The Sonde Automation project is our attempt at bringing real time data and analysis of the Henry’s Fork river conditions to the public. There are 12 sondes (measurement devices) located throughout the Henry’s Fork river that collect data about its current conditions. The HFF scientific team analyzes this data and presents their findings to the community. Previously, data from the sondes had be collected and processed manually. With the help of Melissa, a water quality scientist at Henry’s Fork Foundation and Justin Appleby, the Stanford intern last year, we have managed to create a system to automate the collection, processing, storage, and presentation of this data.

The flow of information begins by attaching a datalogger and cell modem to each sonde. Data is then transmitted through the datalogger, to a cell modem and through a Verizon phone line to a server in the Henry’s Fork Foundation office. The server then cleans the data and stores it in an Amazon hosted database. Our findings can be accessed by an interactive website we created that hosts our analysis for easy public access. Full functionality of the website has been implemented and a final product will be published in a few short weeks!

Seeing this project grow and change has been an incredible experience. At times it has been frustrating and stressful, yet always rewarding. Throughout the past ten weeks I have had to come to terms with the fact that The Sonde Automation Project has no finish line. There is no medal at the end or glorious breaking of the ribbon. The team at HFF will continue to work on this project when I leave, maintaining its servers, adding new sondes to the network, trouble shooting daily crashes, and responding to public feedback. I am grateful to have been a part of the project and had the opportunity to contribute to HFF’s mission.

My time in Ashton Idaho has been incredible. This is not a city of skyscrapers. It is not the place one goes to find exotic foods and eccentric people. There is no BroadWay or Michigan Avenue. When darkness approaches a neon glow does not remind the night that we are here. No. Instead, this city welcomes slumber and bids the darkness a farewell. This is a city where one goes to find the orange hue of a twilight horizon. This is slow and here life is measured by years and not moments. I am happy to have called Ashton home for ten weeks and thankful for its proximity to Yellowstone and the Tetons. Next year I will be a Junior at Stanford University. I am excited for the new school year and all of the memories and lessons it will undoubtedly bring. I am thankful for the incredible opportunity I have had to work here and contribute to the Henry’s Fork Foundation. This time in Ashton will be missed. I bid farewell wiser than before.