Water, Cows and Stars

Monday, September 30, 2013 - 3:15pm


Minh Chau N. Ho


It’s hard to believe this is my last week in Idaho.  It wasn’t that long ago when I drove into Ashton at 10:30pm, trying to figure out the turn to the intern’s summer home from US Highway 20.  This summer is my first time in Idaho, where the skylines are magnificent, the river runs swift, and the eagles call.You’ve heard about many of our summer projects from my fellow interns, so I’ll write about a project that started after most of us had left.  As the summer progressed, the water reservoirs draw lower and the river risks sedimentation as outflows skim closer to the sediment bottom.  As a result, the Henry’s Fork Foundation started sampling water quality to monitor outflows from the Island Park Dam.  Almost daily, we wade out in the Box Canyon and Coffee Pot to sample for suspended sediment concentration (SSC), total phosphate concentration, and turbidity.  Samples in the Coffee Pot, above the Dam, are used for comparisons.  Phosphate and sediment samples are sent to the Bureau of Reclamation while we run turbidity samples in the office.


Results of the study won’t come in until after I’ve left.  By now, there’s only Chris and I left and Matt, the intern coordinator, accompanies us most days.  The boys have been getting ready and excited for the hunting season, which starts in September.  As we work, they trade tips on guns, shells, tags, hunting spots, boats, hunting dogs and more.  I chime in now and then about dogs, but otherwise the topics are foreign to this California urbanite.  My knowledge of the sport has skyrocketed, and I can appreciate their enthusiasm.  It’s a part of the Idaho culture I’ve come to love.

Once in a while we float the river searching for our tagged fish in preparation for habitat surveys in the fall.  Most of our fish were detected in the Harriman Ranch where they were first tagged. 


The Foundation will survey fish habitats in Harriman again in the fall to compare with early and late summer observations.  Sadly, I’ll be gone by then.  Sometimes, we would find cattle loosed from their pastures on our floats.  Someone would call into the office, and we would spend the afternoons checking for broken spots in our fences.  Needless to say, I’ve added cattle herding to my list of first experiences this summer.


I wanted to close with my list of first experiences, in thanks to this extraordinary summer internship.  Driving around the area has been an experience, and I like to take morning joy rides around Mesa Falls in search of wildlife.  This summer, I saw eagles for the first time.  My longer trips have taken me to the Grand Teton National Park, West Yosemite, and Bozeman, not to mention idyllic airport trips to Idaho Falls and Pocatello.  The East Idaho State Fair in Blackfoot serves as my first true state fair experience.





In Ashton, I tried the famous huckleberry milkshake at the renowned Frostop.
(The interns still argue whether it’s pronounced Fro-stop or Fros-top). 
A friend taught me how to ride this summer, and I attended my first rodeo and Dutch oven BBQ – line dancing included, and I sadly (not really) don’t have any photos to share.  I caught my first fish here, picked and tasted my first huckleberries here.

And the stars.  Lack of urban areas make the night sky less light polluted, so I like to contemplate the constellations.  The Perseid meteor shower peaked on August 12th, and Ashton was one of the best places to see it.  Here, for the first time in a long time, my sense of wonder grew.