Autumn has such a distinct scent. You know it when you smell it. All along the trail to Marlette Lake on the East Shore of Lake Tahoe I kept taking deep breaths. While it is really death that is in the air, the power of it gave me energy. Perhaps seeing the power of Mother Nature cycle through life and death with such relative ease made me jealous. We humans have such a difficult time with such monumental things as death. But Mother Nature, well, she seems to embrace each season.
Aspens really did seem to quake in the gentle breeze. Shimmering in the vibrant sun on this rather warm fall day, it was hard to know if the leaves were hanging on for dear life or trying to shake free to move on. It was like a painter’s palette—all these shades of green, yellow, and orange decorating the landscape.
A woman on the trail said she was out three days earlier and noted how much more color there was now. She’s what a New Englander would call a “leaf peeper” because of her ardent interest in the fall colors and desire to see them at different stages. The abundance of green proves the peak was still to come … maybe even that week.
Temperatures, wind, and moisture play a role in all of this leaf-changing business. It’s such a ritual on the East Coast that foliage is tracked for when best to see it. Even the National Weather Service has a color meter. Mostly it’s aspens along the route to Marlette Lake, though this is not the only flora turning color.
So many people were out—and many with their dogs. But we didn’t mind. Everyone was friendly. Those of us with cameras seemed to play a game of leapfrog as we kept passing one another.
Instead of taking the North Canyon Trail, we took the Marlette Trail. It’s narrower and is not open to mountain bikers. While we didn’t see any horses along the way, we saw plenty of evidence they had been out that afternoon. We aren’t sure how far we went. The sign starting at the trail on the Spooner Summit side says it’s 3.75 miles to Marlette Lake. The sign at Marlette says it’s 4.5 miles to get back. Along the way, we saw people with shirts that said, “Hike for Beer” and finally asked about it. There was beer for sale at the lake. We saw people walking back with cups of beer.
This was an excursion about foliage, and we were not disappointed.