Kris and I got up pretty early, and while we were packing up, the campground manager came around to check us out. She was riding in a little golf cart decked out with red, white, and blue bunting and American flags. For some reason, she made me feel like I was breaking some rules that I didn’t know about.
We continued up Hwy 168 past Shaver Lake, which looked pretty socked-in with smoke. The air was thick and scratchy in my throat. The water level was way down, as evidenced by the bathtub ring on the exposed rocks along the shore.
A little way further up the road, we took the turnoff onto Kaiser Pass Road, a beautiful 20-mile winding path through the mountains. Our average speed was probably under 10 mph, due to the narrowness of the road, the lack of visibility, and the many twists and turns. We stopped at the ranger station to pick up our wilderness permit, and drove on to Florence Lake (I just Googled “Florence Lake” and discovered that she was a comedic film star. I wonder if the lake was named after her). The air was thankfully clearer, but the lake was so low. I was going to blame it on the drought, until I found out that they had emptied it out in order to do work on the dam.
Kris and I took a little swim while waiting for the boat that would ferry us to the other side of the lake, cutting out something like 4 miles of dusty stock trail. It was a hot, hot day, and the water felt deliciously cool.
Once on the other side of the lake, we hiked about 6 miles to a beautiful campsite along the San Joaquin River. We dropped our packs and went into the river to rinse off the salt and dust from ourselves and our clothes. We changed into dry things and hung our wet clothes to dry on some bushes by a nice sweet-smelling Jeffrey pine. It was getting on to dusk, and I noticed a bat flying around. I pointed it out to Kris, and then it suddenly became apparent that the bat was attacking us! It flew at our faces repeatedly, expertly dodging our attempts to swat it away. It chased us all around the campsite, and at one point landed on Kris’ back, holding on to her t-shirt. We feared rabies, of course, but thought that we also might be close to its nest and babies, up in that Jeff pine. It was beautiful to look at and absolutely fearless, and scary as hell!
Kris was fending it off with her shoes, and accidentally made contact when she swatted towards it. The bat fell to the ground, stunned. She felt terribly guilty, but a few seconds later, it was back up and flying at us again. We grabbed our stuff and retreated to a second-rate campsite (still beautiful) a little ways away. It didn’t follow us, and went off to hunt bugs above the river. We sneaked back over and collected our wet clothes. Kris said, “Beauty has an underbelly.”
It was an exhausting day of less than 6 miles. I am out of shape! It’s 8:00 PM, the sliver of moon is setting over the pines and we’re hoping that the winds favor us and keep the smoke away. The fire in Kings Canyon is out of control completely and burning many acres. We are out of danger as far as the actual fire goes, but the smoke is real. I’m worried about our friend Mike W’s cabin in King’s Canyon, and him, along with other things (like the critters and trees…). I crawled into my tent fairly early, but sleep eluded me for a long time. Too much to think about, with the fire and the bat.