Settling In

Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - 10:00am

Author: 

Sam Cochran

As my third week living and working on the Henry’s Fork comes to a close, I am happy to say that my time here thus far has surpassed my expectations. The breadth of knowledge that I have been exposed to has enhanced my understanding of fisheries and watershed management, and the coworkers I am surrounded by have inspired in me a sense passion and diligence when working in the field.

My name is Sam Cochran, and I am a rising senior at Washington and Lee University from Birmingham, Alabama. I have always been interested in earth science and conservation, so my experience as an intern at HFF so far has been enriching, to say the least. I am doing a lot of fieldwork, mainly taking water samples (testing for turbidity, suspended sediment concentration, etc.) and administering creel surveys to anglers at many of the popular fishing spots. While I must admit that fieldwork can sometimes feel repetitive, it is this repetitiveness that makes this kind of work so uniquely gratifying: each small sample that I take contributes to the Foundation’s overall body of research, and while I might not think about it with each sample that I take, I can later look at a graph displaying several weeks worth of data gathered from these samples and gain incredible insights about what is going on in the river. Filling up a few sample bottles with water from the river could potentially influence decisions about the Henry’s Fork; that’s a pretty cool thought if you ask me.

I drove from Alabama to Idaho over the course of six days; I had a lot of time to kill before making it out here, so I got to spend much of my trip sightseeing and visiting friends. On the first day of my trip, I drove from my parents’ house in Birmingham to Little Rock, Arkansas and stayed with two of my good friends from college. They were preparing to make a trip out to Yosemite, so we spent much of the night comparing routes and debating which landmarks to stop by and which ones to skip. The next day I woke up early and hit the road, driving through the rest of Arkansas and across Oklahoma. I camped in Black Kettle National Grassland, which straddles the border of Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. The next day I drove across the panhandle and into New Mexico, passing through Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and eventually stopping to camp in El Malpais National Conservation Area. I caught an incredible sunset atop a large sandstone bluff that night, and got to bed early in preparation for the long day to follow.

The next morning I woke up at 5:00am and hit the road; my plan was to meet my friends in Page, Arizona by 2:00pm that day, but I wanted to take the scenic route and thus had to sacrifice a little bit of sleep to make this possible. I drove north and crossed the Arizona border, stopping first at Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Here I got to see some incredible canyons and rock formations, many of which you can drive up to in your car. From here, I drove up to Monument Valley in the northeast corner of the state. The famed buttes shooting out of the desert is a familiar sight if you have seen many western movies, but it was awesome nonetheless to see it in person. From here, I navigated back roads until finally making it to Page an hour earlier than expected. I met up with three of my closest friends from home, all of whom work in Arizona: two of them work on the docks at Lake Powell in Page, and the other works for the Conservation Corps in Flagstaff. We spent all afternoon exploring the nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is easily one of the most incredible places I have ever seen. We hiked, climbed, drove, and wandered around the vast area until dark, got some pizza, and spent the rest of the night hanging out with some of the other young people who work on the lake.

The next morning we went back to Escalante until noon; I left Page shortly after and drove to Salt Lake City, where I spent the night in a motel. The next morning, June 5th, I finished the last stretch of my trip and moved into our condo in Island Park. I am living with three other Washington and Lee interns who are working in the area: two work for the Nature Conservancy at Flat Ranch and the other works for Friends of Harriman State Park. I have enjoyed hearing what all of them have been doing at their internships; most of it is similar to the work we do at HFF, so we can all talk to each other about what we are learning without having to fill in many blanks for each other. Interacting with other students on a daily basis who are working similar jobs at different organizations has definitely added a layer of depth to my experience thus far, and I feel that it gives me a well-rounded perspective of the topics I am learning about at HFF.

My project for the summer is to catalog all of the access points of the Henry’s Fork. There are 47 locations that I will be going to, and at each location I will be taking down information such as directions, GPS coordinates, conditions of the access point, parking availability, restroom accessibility, etc. I am very excited about this project because it is hands-on, and through this project I will get to know the area much better than I would have otherwise. The catalog should be on the website by the end of the summer, so check it out if you are in need of a new fishing spot!

I will write a few more blog posts over the course of the summer to give updates on what I’m doing. So far, I’ve gone on several hikes, tried my luck at fishing, and visited family in Jackson, Wyoming. Hopefully there are many more adventures to come!