August 2023

Thoughts about…

Trusting the Process

As I’ve mentioned more than once in recent months, 2023 is the break year in the 3-year cycle of Tahoe Big Years (hosted by the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science). So when winter came to a close this year, I was excited about the prospect of actually having free time during the summer. Essentially, I wouldn’t be spending every waking minute outside of eating, sleeping, and working either searching for birds or wildflowers.

Not that I don’t enjoy Tahoe Big Years. On the contrary, I become completely obsessed with participating in the year-long events to the point where I table nearly every other project, passion, or past-time. But for all of my plotting and planning this spring, I have to admit that this summer hasn’t really played out as I imagined it would.

Going for a short hike after work on July 6, 2023. © Jared Manninen

May and the first half of June still could’ve qualified as winter, as far as I’m concerned. Then when the rain storms finally broke, time just evaporated. Without referring to my calendar, I could only guess as to where those last two weeks of June went. July passed nearly as fast, and it was marked by blazing hot temperatures (at least for Tahoe) and epic-sized crowds. And, through it all, I’ve been dealing with the low grade, yet persistent stress of preparing to sell my Jeep and buying a new car.

As a seasonal worker who lives on the cheap and tries to keep any given purchase that I make well under $100, the thought of spending a significant portion of my savings and then still having a monthly car payment stresses me out. But it’s something that I need to do before my summer job comes to a close. That’s because finance companies usually have a hard time wrapping their minds around lending money to someone who doesn’t currently have a job! Trust me when I say that as fun and rewarding as my life is, being a seasonal employee isn’t without certain inconveniences.

Breaking up my day off “work day” with a short hike along the Upper Truckee River on July 12, 2023. © Jared Manninen

All of that said, I do take comfort in knowing that everything happens at the right time, in the right place, and in the right sequence. Although that concept isn’t my creation (see author Louise Hay), I’ve held that belief ever since I was a professional massage therapist during the first few years of the new millennium.

At the time, I studied traditional topics that came with the territory such as anatomy and physiology and how to effectively apply massage technique to the body. I also took an interest in meditation, the power of positive thinking, and other related self-empowerment techniques. This doesn’t make me any sort of expert, just someone who’s been contemplating this stuff for the past couple of decades.

Watch Outdoor VLOG #58 to see me hiking and cross-country skiing (at this patch of snow) on July 18, 2023. © Jared Manninen

Whether or not the concept of everything happening in the right time, place, and sequence is an immutable law of life is irrelevant. I choose to believe it.

Now, this isn’t to say that I believe that life is preordained, fate is inevitable, or that people can’t change their nature. Taking things to those extremes seems limiting to me because it basically removes agency from our lives. If the outcome is already determined, then very few decisions we make would actually matter. And that just doesn’t sound like a fulfilling approach to living our lives.

So instead of embracing this philosophy of everything happening at the right time, place, and sequence as an adjacent view of fate or destiny, I treat it more like an improv session. That is, regardless of the situation with which I’m faced I do my best to respond with a “Yes, and…” answer.

Admittedly, I do say “no” pretty often and in a lot of situations it does take me awhile to warm up to new ideas. But I’m always trying to roll with the punches and to let go of my attachment to outcomes.

So long as I make appropriate decisions based on the circumstances at-hand and act with a correct heart, regardless of whether or not I know where I’m going, I know I’ll eventually arrive at exactly where I need to be. But where I need to be doesn’t necessarily mean that I need to be in one specific place doing one specific thing.

Birding and looking for wildflowers with a friend at Emerald Bay on July 19, 2023. © Jared Manninen

I have a degree in technical writing, for example. This means that I essentially learned how to translate technical information into something more palatable for the lay person. Most people with that degree go on to work in a technical field producing user manuals for phones or air fryers or whatever. I never did. Yet, I now publish how-to videos about cross-country skiing and articles about where to hike at Lake Tahoe. So, over two decades later, here I am putting that bachelor’s degree to use by translating technical information for the lay person.

Is that fate at work? Was I always destined to be a cross-country ski instructor? Or, is this all just the sum total of every decision that I’ve made leading up to this point base on my unique life experiences and evolving interests? I tend to believe it’s the latter, especially considering how many “careers” that I’ve had over the years and how many passions that I’ve pursued.

Even with my shadow in frame, the view from my mountain bike ride to work on July 24, 2023, wasn’t too bad. © Jared Manninen

I realize that this seems like splitting hairs when discussing the differences between everything happing at the right time, place, and sequence versus fate. But you can see the endless possibilities (sandbox) that come with the former versus the clearly defined path (railroad tracks) of the latter, right? Again, fate just seems so unyielding and permanent to me. And I just don’t want to live my life believing that I can’t make choices that’ll have an impact regardless of outcome.

Buying a Jeep was my response to the Snowpocalypse that engulfed Lake Tahoe during the winter of 2016-17. By the following spring, I was exhausted from the constant struggle of driving in deep snow with a two-wheel drive coupe. So the Jeep, at the time, was a logical choice.

Now, however, my decision to sell it and buy a new car boils down to one of the age-old dilemmas with owning a vehicle. Is it better to own a used vehicle outright and have to deal with constant maintenance, or to purchase a new car that’s dependable but comes with a monthly payment?

At some point in every relationship there comes a time where we have to acknowledge that it’s either going to move forward, stand still, or that we’re going to continue putting out fires every other day. Suffice it to say, then, that I absolutely hate the fact that so much of my mental bandwidth over the past year has been consumed by vehicle issues.

Like I said before, though, sometimes it takes me awhile to warm up to a new idea. And this is one of those times. I really wanted things to work between me and the Jeep, but I do believe that now is the right time and place to make the change. So I’m moving forward and, hopefully, by this time next month I’ll have a new car.

Another mini-adventure to the river after sitting (for too long!) in front of the computer while writing on July 26, 2023. © Jared Manninen

Cloud bank, blue skies, and forested mountains

View of Donner Lake from Mount Judah on August 16, 2022. © Jared Manninen

For those of you interested and in the area, I’ll be volunteering again as the guide for the Roller Pass/Judah Loop hike (approx. 7 miles and 1,300 feet of elevation gain, strenuous) on September 9, 2023. This hike is part of an annual, all-weekend fundraising event for the Donner Summit Historical Society. You can find more information about the event at Donner Party Hike.

During the hike I share historical information about many of the events that are associated with Donner Pass, Roller Pass, Coldstream Pass, and Mount Judah, as well as the local flora/fauna.

Here’s a selection of birds I photographed during July. It was interesting in that during the warmest part of July and toward the end of the month, most birds seemed like they went silent. Until mid-July it was nearly guaranteed that I’d see something of interest, but during that second half I hardly saw any birds. Perhaps they were all staying mostly silent and tending to their young?

Here’s a new Tahoe Trail Guide article that I wrote last month. Now, let’s see if I can keep it up 🙂

My intention is to write at least two more related articles, one of which will be a companion article to this one that features tips for using the website iNaturalist. The other will be focused on developing your perception while out in nature (so that you can see more cool stuff!).

Click the image to read the article

I was successful in logging my cross-country ski session for the month of July a couple of weeks ago. And I documented the fun experience in this video. I’m sure I mentioned it before, but I’m going to log at least one xc ski day per month for 2023. It’s a fun goal that I’ve wanted to attempt for years, but haven’t found the motivation until this year. That’s partially because I’m not participating in a Big Year this year (2023), so I have way more flexibility in my off-time. Also, the goal is much more achievable thanks to this past winter’s epic snowfall!

I don’t have a specific online purchasing option for my greeting cards yet. However, if you did want to purchase one (or multiple), you could do it through the amber-colored button toward the bottom of this page that says “Support Tahoe Trail Guide.” This will take you to a PayPal paying option. You’ll have to type in the $ amount your sending, as well as a description of what you want. Also include:

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$5 per card + $0.99 shipping = $5.99/card

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Lake Tahoe Greeting Cards (clockwise beginning at top left): Steller's Jay, Coyote, Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, American Black Bear, Bald Eagle

Some Tahoe Trail Guide articles for your reading pleasure 🙂

Thanks for being a part of my life. Until next time…

-Jared Manninen

Tahoe Trail Guide is an online resource for hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing in the Lake Tahoe region. In addition to trail data, I offer backcountry “how-to” articles and information about the local and natural history of Tahoe. Tahoe Swag is a collection of art and design products I create based on my love of the outdoors and appreciation for Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountains.

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View of Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe from Echo Peak on July 28, 2023. © Jared Manninen

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Last Month’s Newsletter (aka Recap in Video Format!)

To broaden my audience and get more mileage out of these newsletters, I’ve begun to adapt them into short videos for YouTube. I’ll incorporate short video clips into these recaps whenever possible as I do often capture nature videos when I’m outdoors (but don’t use the footage anywhere else). Essentially, I want to make two different presentations with a minimal amount of extra work rather than just creating a 1-to-1 adaptation of these text and photo versions of my newsletters.

Categories: Newsletters
Tags: #2023

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