I’m still in shock this is my last week here. I knew these couple months would fly by, but it really did feel like a blink of an eye. I feel so incredibly lucky to have gotten to work with everyone here, and take part in so many amazing projects all over the watershed.
I’m wrapping up on my main project - the Recreational Use Economic Value Study on the Upper Teton River. Organizing and conducting my own project was new and empowering. I collected my own data, did my own calculations (with the help of Rob of course), lead and worked with volunteers, made new connections, and got to share my findings in our seminar series. Coming out of my freshman year, real work experience will be such an advantage in the future. I now have some real insight into what a job in my area of interest might look like and some of the major skills involved with it.
While driving between seven different river access sites for six hours can be tedious, I will miss petting the horses on the road to South Bates, reading a book while waiting for the morning rush, slowing down to spot the hawks, eagles and sand cranes in nearby fields, grabbing a huckleberry milkshake at the Emporium, discovering small world connections with random people on the river, weaving between storms that pass through the valley, watching the fish rise, and driving home through the golden barley fields at sunset. I could go on and on about all the little things I loved while working over in Teton Valley that make it so hard to leave.
The Henry’s Fork Foundation is remarkably good at what they do. They foster such a tight and respected community, both local and regional. Creating positive relationships seems to be one of the most important steps in forming these close communities and maintaining support. They work hard with precision, making for strong projects and reliable data. There has also been a huge emphasis on communication. With so many findings and information, sharing it properly with the rest of the community and communicating well with one another is essential. I was able to practice this not only out in the field while talking to river users, but in my presentation as well. As a non-profit foundation, every person, whether an employee or member, works hard to pitch in for every event, meeting, activity or whatever it may be—they really are one big team here that can pull off almost anything. Lastly, they are all incredibly passionate. The office is full of avid fisherman and people who live in the area and know the watershed’s value. It’s clear that their connection to and involvement with the river really builds (or should I saw spawns) their immense dedication and time to protect it. Each and every person in the office was so kind, welcoming, inclusive, supportive, and just fun to be around. They really make you feel part of the organization and have taught me so much more than I could’ve imagined.
On a final note, I climbed South Teton last week! My mom had climbed the Grand when she was 19 and working out here. I wanted to do the same, but didn't have seven-hundred bucks to spare on a guide, so I did South! My body still hurts and it was definitely a challenge, but so worth it and absolutely gorgeous—views are pretty hard to beat from 12,513 ft. I’ve adored the Tetons ever since I was little and even more so now; being able to share that love and my own unique experience out here with her is extremely special. I guess I’ll have to come back to do the Grand!