Escape From Mittry Lake

Patti and I convoyed the short drive to Mittry Lake yesterday morning. The dirt road from the Imperial Dam area was badly washboarded, so we took it slow. Trucks and UTVs blasted past us, stirring up dust storms so bad we couldn’t see the road.

Eventually, we got to the lake, which is a beautiful place. I visited last year on the bike, but I’d never camped here before. Being a Saturday, it was quite crowded. Patti knew this area better than me, so she went into a popular camping area on her own to scout a place for us to be. She found one, came back, and led me in. It wasn’t near the lake, but we did have a canal running by, so there was water and trees.

The next-door neighbors were a bit loud with their music and kids, but nothing we couldn’t tolerate in the middle of the day. I went out for a bike ride to explore the area (video coming soon), which was fun. We figured this spot would be good enough for the night, and then we could find a nicer spot once people left at the end of the weekend. Something told me to lock my bike inside the trailer overnight, so I did.

As night fell, the noise kept going. I’ve slept in louder places near highways, though. Things got more sketchy when one of their diesel trucks pulled in right behind us. I peeked through my window covers and saw them trying to winch a tree out of the ground right behind my trailer. This is a wildlife preservation area. Yoinking trees out of the ground for firewood is the complete opposite of that. But this does explain the glimpse I caught of what looked like a tree strapped to the front of this same truck when it drove in at sunset.

Fortunately, they did a terrible job of pulling this tree out, and couldn’t even get the winch line to stay on the stump. Soon they gave up and went back to their camp. I took the opportunity to strap the bike down inside the trailer, pack up everything else, and be prepared to leave. Patti and I had been discussing it. At this point, they were keeping to themselves, and the noise was down to a dull roar. I didn’t feel like we were in danger. They were acting stupid, but they’d done nothing malicious toward us, either. So we decided to stay the night, then leave first thing in the morning.

A little while later, two nearby gunshots changed our minds.

This was a populated camping area at 10:00 pm. They’d already demonstrated poor decision-making when they tried, and failed, to yank that tree for firewood (I’m guessing alcohol was involved, plus who knows what else). Now they were playing with guns. While I still think they meant no harm to us, their shenanigans were now putting us in danger. Thanks to my previous preparation, we were out of there in minutes, breaking my personal record for transitioning the van from sleeping mode to driving mode. In nearly two years of living on the road, this is the first time I’ve made a nighttime escape because I didn’t feel safe where I was. Fortunately, my home is on wheels, so I can get away from bad neighbors — quickly, if necessary.

We returned to our original campsite at Imperial Dam. Patti’s two-week LTVA permit had just expired, which is why we moved in the first place. But no one was checking permits that late, and no one was going to argue with us about moving somewhere we knew was safe to spend a night after that experience. I was wide awake and took a while to relax and go to sleep, but once I did, I slept well.

Now Patti has to figure out a new plan. She’d planned to camp at Mittry Lake until her next paycheck came in, but there’s no way we’re spending a night there now. We’ll also be reporting our experience and the bad behavior we saw to the rangers. I have an LTVA season pass, so I’m covered.

In summary, Mittry Lake is a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to camp there.

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