As he is a regular hiker himself, it was a natural thought to invite Ledger Dispatch Editor Jeremy Malamed on a Mother-Rucking hike with Dave Gebauer and myself.

The foliage upcountry was beginning to turn from rich greens to vivid yellows, a key sign that autumn is in the air, so we traveled up to a spot where Jeremy had not hiked, Castle Point, in the Devil’s Garden Wilderness on the Carson Spur near Kirkwood.

Loaded up with Gebauer’s spare U.S. Army Molle Rucksack, Jeremy went right up the mountain, with the help of some previous high altitude training.

Following the aspens and willows, we climbed the mountain into the evergreens, and higher still, above the tree line. The volcanic rock formations at the top, so different to the lower dirt area just off Highway 88, made for a visually and texturally-interesting trek. The higher up we went, after about 3/4 of a mile straight up at a 40-degree angle, the more visible smoke became up ahead and off to the left, filling the normally crisp mountain air with an acrid tang.

Coincidentally, the Caples Prescribed Burn was clearly visible on the next mountain over, moving closer every minute, with smoke filling the deep canyon.

“See those black plumes, in between the white smoke? Those are trees going up in flames,” Gebauer said. “That is really close, we have to keep an eye on it. We may have to cut this Ruck short.”

Then, right before our eyes, a tree was engulfed in flames, the bright orange flames clearly visible from our lookout point on the lava rock bench, which had been formed by visitors.

“This started as just a hike, but turned into way more of an adventure than any of us expected,” Malamed said.

While Dave was on “fire watch,” Jeremy and I continued to the peak of the mountain at Castle Point. Typically, the peak offers an excellent 360-degree view that includes Silver Lake, Plasse’s Resort, Kirkwood/Thunder Mountain, the edge of Lake Kirkwood and the mountains of Lake Tahoe, but with the unsavory air conditions, visibility was obscured.

“This is spectacular, we really are up high, and I can only imagine how far you can see when the air is clear,” Malamed said. “This is a beautiful area and a really amazing spot. I would definitely come back here.”

Join Ledger Dispatch reporters Dave Gebauer and Sarah Spinetta, along with other guests, as they traverse through the natural beauty of Amador and Calaveras counties in Mother-Rucking. Be sure to download the Interactive News app on your mobile device to watch this week’s Mother-Rucking Interactive News video featuring Dave Gebauer, Sarah Spinetta and Jeremy Malamed hiking at high altitudes upcountry at Castle Point, in the Devil’s Garden Wilderness on the Carson Spur. Look out for the next installment of Mother-Rucking to see what adventures we get up to.