Lake Tahoe Artist & Writer

November 2019

Thoughts about…

Keeping the Mind Limber Through Continued Education

I stepped in it, but good, this fall. My big plans for updating Tahoe Trail Guide, publishing new articles, and generally just getting shit done fell short. Instead, I found myself sitting in an immersive classroom environment for hours on end, and spending my days off completing homework and creating PowerPoint presentations.

Is this really something worth complaining about, though?

No. No it’s not.

But, to the annoyance of those around me, I found myself complaining constantly because time is precious. It’s all we really have. And those classes I took sucked up a lot of my time, which is probably why I’ve put off enrolling in some of them for more than a decade.

Although we do have a finite amount of time on earth, there will always be just enough of it to complete that which we need to see through to the end. This is my belief, anyway. Otherwise, why bother starting anything of consequence?

In spite of that belief, though, I still suffer from feelings of anxiety that time is slipping away and that there’s not enough of it to get done what needs to be done. So, every time I complained about a lack of time to accomplish other things, I had to remind myself that taking those classes was important to me and my outdoor recreation career. And, that completing them would, and will, only serve to enhance my backcountry experience and lend credibility to my work (i.e. the art and articles I create).

Golden willow trees

Autumn in Blackwood Canyon. © Jared Manninen

You see … Lake Tahoe Community College (LTCC) has an extensive Wilderness Education & Outdoor Leadership program. Through this program they offer AA degrees and various certifications. Because I embraced naturalism wholeheartedly this summer, I decided it was time to get a proper education on the subject. And, lo and behold, LTCC offers a Wilderness Naturalist certificate. They also have a Search & Rescue program, which is of great interest to me.

What would this education ultimately do for me other than providing knowledge about the great outdoors?

There’s no telling at this point. I just felt it was imperative that I start taking those classes now. For months, I’ve been consumed with curiosity about the natural world. There’s never a better time to learn, so in order to capitalize on my enthusiasm I took some classes related to the naturalist and search & rescue programs: Foundations of Recreation Land Management, Tracking, and Wilderness First Responder.

Dry grasses

Dry grasses in the fading autumn light. © Jared Manninen

What I appreciate most about this realm of education is that classwork and fieldwork are inseparable. And often the courses are provided in a very compressed timeframe. In fact, the tracking and first responder courses nearly reminded me of my training experiences in the Marine Corps. In the morning you’re presented with information about this or that, and by the afternoon you’re already tasked with putting it into practical application during a mock scenario.

I realize this learning environment can be challenging or off-putting to many people due to its intense nature. In fact, most of us were bummed out when the oldest student, who was retired, dropped out of the first responder course on the second day of class. He was a really nice guy, but he simply couldn’t assimilate the information quickly enough. It was obvious he hadn’t participated in any sort of classroom experience for a long time.

Even I get frustrated when there’s not enough time to study or prepare. However, this “do or die” type of classroom experience really draws upon all of your mental and physical faculties. And, that immersive experience is what really gets me charged.

Funny thing is that when the retired guy dropped the class, I then became the oldest person in the room. Ha!

View of Cave Rock from Logan Shoals

View of Cave Rock from Logan Shoals. © Jared Manninen

But this immersive style of learning is where I’ve lived for years. It’s where I thrive. And in the end, I was the only person in the first responder course to achieve 100% on both my practical application test and written exam. I don’t mean to brag, but just this one time I won’t shy away from patting myself on the back.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned – far more important than any specific information or education I’ve received or earned – is the understanding of how to learn.

I agree that for the average classroom experience, everyone is going to pick up things slightly different than their classmate. But the only way you’re ever going to truly learn a thing is by completely immersing yourself in it.

There’s no formula.

There’s no checklist.

You just gotta dive in headfirst and embrace the experience. You have to be a sponge. You have to be a critical thinker. But most importantly is that you have to let go of your ego and become the beginner again.

View of Lower Echo Lake

View of Lower Echo Lake. © Jared Manninen

Prerequisites, notwithstanding, it’s usually best to treat the experience as something completely new. The biggest problem I see when people come into a learning environment with some previous knowledge of the subject in question is that they assume they already know. This ultimately sabotages their learning experience by shackling the person with old information and habits.

And it’s hard to learn and evolve when you’re stuck in the past.

So as much as I lamented this fall about not accomplishing more with my time between seasonal jobs, I had a blast taking those three classes. I learned valuable information, met great people, and developed quality connections within the outdoor recreation industry of Lake Tahoe.

Besides, when it comes down to it, most plans are often nothing more than a list of shit that doesn’t get done.

During October, I participated in my first-ever “Inktober” experience. The concept behind Inktober is to create an ink drawing each day for the entire month of October. There’s nothing official about it. Artists just “challenge” other artists to get into the swing of things and draw everyday. It’s been awhile since I last created any body of artwork, so this was a fun experience. Also, I decided to just focus on one subject for the month. Which, in this case, was birds of the Sierra Nevada. Click through the images and tell me what you think in the comment section below!

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl (10/31/19) © Jared Manninen

I posted on Tahoe Trail Guide the essay that I wrote last year for Cross Country Skier Magazine (Fall 2018, #38.1) titled Beginner’s Mind: Becoming a Student of Sport. It may or may not be a coincidence that this month’s essay is directly related to that article published last fall. There’s also an audio transcription of the article at the bottom of the page. Check it out!

Snowbanks on a winter river

Click the image to read my essay, "Beginner's Mind: Becoming a Student of Sport"

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

-Jared Manninen

Tahoe Trail Guide is an online magazine for sharing my knowledge about hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing, as well as information about traveling to (and through) the Lake Tahoe region. I refine that information for a younger audience and produce it in a printed format under the title Wilderness Activity Books. Lastly, Tahoe Swag is a collection of art and design products I create based on my love of the outdoors and appreciation for Lake Tahoe.

Categories: Newsletters
Tags: #2019

Comments (2)

  • Ronnie Boucher . November 7, 2019 . Reply

    Jared You Have Been Blessed to use your God Given Talent in so very many ways. Thank you so very much for sharing your thoughts and photos. I truly enjoy all of them. Wishing you all the best. Love and Prayers Ronnie

    • (Author) Jared Manninen . November 7, 2019 . Reply

      Thanks so much for the kind words, Ronnie. I appreciate it 🙂

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