October 2022

Thoughts about…

Being Flexible and Trusting in the Process

For the most part, Lake Tahoe dodged a bullet this fall with regard to wildfire and wildfire smoke. That’s not to say that we didn’t experience our fair share of it during September. However, smoke from the Mosquito Fire that originated on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada (Foresthill, CA) was intermittent here in South Lake Tahoe. Smoke would fill the basin for a couple of days, and then it would blow out. We even received a few days of rain during those weeks’ worth of Mosquito Fire smoke. Most important, though, is the fact that there was never any imminent threat to the Lake Tahoe Basin. Essentially, I didn’t have to worry about evacuating my home like I did last year. Although that thought was on all of our minds, it never got to that point. So, for that I’m truly grateful.

The smoke was far worse this time around in North Tahoe and Truckee. Fortunately, though, the air was clear for the morning of September 17th. The reason this was so fortuitous is because that was the day that I guided the Roller Pass/Mount Judah loop hike for the Donner Summit Historical Society’s annual fundraiser. The organizers were concerned that they’d have to cancel the weekend event (which included multiple hikes and presentations) for the third year in a row. In the end, they chose to go forward with the weekend and we were all rewarded with blue skies on that Saturday morning. Like clockwork, though, the smoke began to roll in at around 12:30 in the afternoon. But that was just as my group was returning to the lodge for lunch and the afternoon presentation.

Mountain range in the haze from wildfire smoke

September 8, 2022, was the first morning that Tahoe experienced smoke from the Mosquito Fire. The sky doesn’t look bad here, but the AQI (air quality index) was about 150. The smoke from the Mosquito Fire came and went throughout the middle of September with some of the daily AQIs reaching 400+ in South Tahoe. North Tahoe and Truckee experienced even higher AQIs and more days of smoke than us. © Jared Manninen

After fulfilling my commitment to preparing for and guiding that Donner Party hike, I had only two more weeks’ worth of work to complete at my summer job. And then, I thought, I’d be home free to begin tackling all of the artistic and creative endeavors that I had lined up for this fall.

Well, that’s what I hoping for anyway…

The reality is that ever since September a number of unfortunate situations and more critical tasks have derailed me from working on those fun projects. I hesitate to list those things, but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. So in an effort to bring levity to the situation and provide context for my lack of creative output, here you go…

  • Vehicle issues. Interestingly, I paid off my Jeep loan last spring. But since the beginning of September, my Jeep has mostly been parked in the driveway or at the shop due to various mechanical failures. So, I’ve been relying on the generosity of friends willing to give me rides or let me borrow their vehicles. I’ve also been bicycle commuting more frequently which adds a whole other level of logistics to the day. And, of course, the money that I’ve saved from not having a monthly loan payment is now going toward vehicle repairs. But as my mechanic said, the Jeep is starting to show its age. I suspect that I am, too.
  • Root canal. I received my first root canal on September 20th. And I now have another scheduled for January. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as painful as I feared. But it took me out of action for a day and it was definitely expensive.
  • Bug bites. This one is just bizarre. Somehow I managed to be stung or bitten on my head in three different places. And the bite site on the back my head swelled up to the size of an egg and caused searing referral pain throughout my scalp that lasted for nearly two weeks. Needless to say, it was hard to focus on anything other than the pain in my head during that time.
  • Yard projects. What I thought would be a two or three day interior cleanup of the backyard shed has turned into a full-blown remodeling project that’s now spanned over two weeks. Granted, I’m not putting in eight-hour days but it’s definitely become a time suck.

So there’s my list of excuses for not getting more stuff done last month!

Wildfire smoke in the mountains with pine trees

Thick smoke from the Mosquito Fire on September 11, 2022. © Jared Manninen

Honestly, for all of my talk about life lessons, metaphors, and metaphysics, I get just as frustrated as the next person when life doesn’t go my way. And this is like the third or fourth year in a row now that my life’s been turned upside down at the close of summer. Unfortunately, the majority of reasons have been out of my control. For example, we’ve routinely had to deal with late season unhealthy and persistent wildfire smoke, forest closures due to the potential threat of wildfire, evacuation due to the imminent threat of wildfire, or Covid-related shutdowns. It’s all getting kind of old because I always have a plan or at least a list of tasks and goals to accomplish during my time between seasonal jobs. And I like to be able to execute that plan without having to start and stop multiple times or take numerous detours along the way.

But stuff happens, right? Life doesn’t always go according to plan regardless of your effort or intentions. So, what then?

Blue skies, puffy clouds, green bushes, and mountain ranges

Days like this remind me of why I love living at Lake Tahoe. We got a break from the Mosquito Fire smoke on September 15, 2022. © Jared Manninen

You could fight tooth and nail and try to scramble back to your original position in order to get that train back on the right track. But a lot of times that just becomes twice the work, usually more. And if you do choose this route you may find that while you’re still just trying to get back to the starting point, life has already moved on without you. So you really have to be committed to the thing if you choose this option.

You could abandon the plan altogether in lieu of some other plan. But that’s seldom a satisfying experience especially if you were passionate about the initial endeavor. Nobody really wants to give up on something they care about unless it’s absolutely necessary because this always yields feelings of failure and introduces countless “what if” scenarios.

Pine trees, mountains, lake, and wildfire smoke

Another smoky day due to the Mosquito Fire on September 16, 2022. © Jared Manninen

You could try to navigate your way back to the original plan by taking a modified route. But this will probably require you to either fast forward through a few steps or omit them completely from your process. As a result, you may find that your finished work is acceptable but not exactly as you intended.

The last option is that rather than fighting against it, you could just embrace the disruption and ride it out. Will this set you back in time and delay your project? Probably. Life waits for no one, after all. But this disruption is right now, and it’s commanding your attention above all else. So it seems to me to be counterintuitive to fight that, especially if the cost of delaying or postponing its resolution is consequential.

Blue skies, mountain ranges, and a lake

View of Donner Lake from Mount Judah on September 17, 2022. I posted a photo from a similar vantage point last month, but this is the day that I actually guided the Roller Pass/Judah Loop Hike for the Donner Summit Historical Society’s annual weekend fundraiser. © Jared Manninen

My Jeep is old, so there’ll always be some repair that I’ll have to address. But if I know there’s an issue now, do I really want to wait to fix it until the snow begins to accumulate and I have to drive to Truckee every weekend for work? Realistically, my root canal was two years in the making. But how much longer could I have safely put it off? And I was able to work through the pain of those bug bites during the day at my job. But did I really want to be climbing around the roof of my shed to replace its shingles after work when I was most mentally and physically fatigued?

Essentially, I chose to hit the “pause” button on most of my creative projects in order to work through this list of stuff.

Blue skies, puffy clouds, mountain range, and pine trees

Another clear day making for a wonderful bike ride home on September 18, 2022. © Jared Manninen

Admittedly, most of the creative endeavors that I’ve currently postponed have been on my to-do list for years. So this is kind of par for the course. Fortunately, though, none of them are actually time-sensitive nor do they have a shelf-life. But I do understand that as long as I keep putting them off, they’ll never be completed.

Having to perform triage is never any fun and I am disappointed that I haven’t been able to accomplish more these past few weeks. However, I’m not defeated and I will continue working on my projects once the dust settles.

In the meantime, I’ve just had to acknowledge that we don’t always get our way. And things don’t always go as planned. We have to be flexible and trust that everything will work itself out. But this is ok because life is not a race and, frankly, without the occasional disruption (aka challenge) our lives would mostly be predictable and probably just a little bit boring.

Field of dry grasses with pine trees and mountains

A beautiful morning bike ride through Washoe Meadows State Park on September 22, 2022. © Jared Manninen

With my Jeep being out of service for nearly all of September, I haven’t been able to travel as much as I had planned (to find new plant species). I have managed to log a few new plants here and there, and I have been sorting through my photo backlog and discovering even more. However, it feels like I’m barely hanging on to second place despite being about 20 species ahead of third place. But that’s because third place keeps grinding out a new species or two every day. And I’m stuck in this holding pattern. argh… 🙂

Anyway, here are the current standings for those of you who are interested … 2022 Tahoe Wildflower Big Year.

Donner Party History: Series Introduction

Click the image to read the introduction to my series of Donner Party History articles. © Jared Manninen

In spite of all of the minor setbacks I listed above, I actually published the first of a series of articles about the Donner Party on Tahoe Trail Guide last week! Keep in mind that the article is just the introduction to the series. I’m still a ways away from getting into the nitty gritty details of their saga. But it’s a first step!

Below is the series’ table of contents. I’m sure that I’ll tweak this list to one degree or another, but these are the main topics that I will cover. As I’ve mentioned in the series introduction, learning about the Donner Party without any additional historical context doesn’t really tell the whole story. So the first real article (Part 1) will be a contextual setup to the overall Donner Party series providing brief descriptions of the many events leading up to their ordeal.

Lastly, I want to be clear in that my intention for these articles is to provide entry-point history to the Donner Party story. This doesn’t mean that the articles won’t be engaging or filled with more than enough details and facts. But I’m not planning to write a novel or a large-scale piece of historical literature. Their story is very complex involving many people and events, and my intention is to refine this information down into something manageable for most people.

  • Series Introduction
  • Western Emigration and Notable Dates of the early 1800s and an Intro to the Sierra Nevada (Part 1)
  • Introduction to the Donner Party (Part 2)
  • Travel from Independence, MO, to Fort Bridger, WY (Part 3)
  • Taking the Hastings’ Cutoff from Fort Bridger, WY (Part 4)
  • Reconnect with California Trail and Travel via Humboldt River, Humboldt Sink, and Truckee Meadows, NV (Part 5)
  • Donner Party at Truckee Lake (Part 6)
  • First Escape Party aka “Forlorn Hope” in December, 1846 (Part 7)
  • First Rescue Party in February, 1847 (Part 8)
  • Second Rescue Party and Starved Camp in March, 1847 (Part 9)
  • Third Rescue Party in March, 1847 (Part 10)
  • Recovery and Salvage Operation aka Fourth Rescue Party in April, 1847 (Part 11)
  • After the Ordeal (Part 12)
  • Resources Page
Stevens Peak with blooming shrubs in the foreground

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.

If you like any of the images I post in these newsletters, please contact me. I’d be more than happy to upload them to my RedBubble account so that you can order prints and other merchandise featuring the images.

River with grasses, willows, and pine trees on the banks

Searching for willows along the banks of the Upper Truckee River on September 27, 2022. © 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: #2022

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