Martis Mystery

There’s a mystery occurring along Martis Creek (CA-267) between Kings Beach and Truckee.

Aspen that populate the meadow, near the remnants of an old cabin, are deceivingly orange. From a distance, they appear to be peaking, but they’re not. They’re diseased.

This meadow is visited often, mostly because of the cabin. It’s a popular place for portraiture (weddings, graduations) due to the distressed character of the cabin. The turnout is so popular that its once-small parking lot has been expanded to park several motor vehicles.

In autumn, particularly on early October weekends, the lot is filled with cars; a parade of people stroll out to the cabin or one of the groves to stand amidst the aspen as they rustle in the breeze.

Reno color spotter Clayton Peoples was there yesterday and drew the same conclusion I had a couple of weeks earlier when I visited. Martis Creek Meadow is Just Starting, but its leaves are frosted a dull orange by the leaf rust called Melampsora medusae.

Mystery Solved: Melampsora russ afflicts aspen, poplar, cottonwood, willow and several specie of pine. Orange, powdery pistules on the backside of the leaf cause the coloration which is an infection resulting from continuous moisture being on the leaf for a period of from two to 24 hours, the US Forest Service explains. Sadly, considering its popularity, this grove has been tormented by afflictions.

Despite the Halloween-colored contagion, Clayton remains optimistic and adds, “not all is lost: many leaves look quite healthy and are likely to turn in the next week or two.”

He estimates peak is still two weeks off at this location, but considering the pandemic and national forest closures occurring south of Sonora Pass, this location does offer the promise of color at North Lake Tahoe and a reason, he writes, to “get out on a crisp clear morning and walk among the trees,” reminding us all that despite our troubles, “many things are proceeding in their normal course despite the things going on in the world around us.”

  • Martis Creek Meadow (CA-267) – Just Starting (0-10%)
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