Mystery Neighbor at the 21% Lake

We’re about an hour north of Fresno, CA, at a Corps of Engineers campground built around a reservoir called Hensley Lake.

Hidden View Campround

As with nearly all USACE campgrounds we’ve stayed at so far, this one’s been designed beautifully and outfitted to the max. When they plan building a dam to create a reservoir, they set aside part of the budget for a campground surrounding it, and, believe me, their budgets are bigger than those of state parks.

Here’s a standard campsite (where I did yoga under a tree one day). Shaded pavilion, flat area for tent, and high-quality grill and firepit (not pictured).

All the spots for RVs are paved and close to level, and there are only 50 campsites here spread over several acres of rolling, grassy hills (fewer sites than were at our recent state parks that were a fraction of the size).

Plus, there’s always a lake view! Except with this reservoir. That’s what’s left of the lake; it’s at 21% capacity right now.

In fact, the original boat dock leads to a grassy area, with two marker buoys languishing in the mud, nearby. A new dock’s been built, but that one’s looking iffy, too.

Here’s our campsite, with what normally would be a beautiful view of the lake (inserted with blue squiggles).

We can see it and walk down to it, but we’re not dragging the kayaks down there, for sure.

Banjo loves the view from the campsite though, because she can watch all the ground squirrels and rabbits scurrying down below in what used to be the lake bed. When she’s not napping with a rock as her pillow.

Campground Mystery

Here’s the weird neighbor part, which I’m reluctant to give details about because the guy could be in dire straights and I don’t want to appear to be making light of his situation. But he’s doing an odd job of hiding for some reason, and I’m not going to ask him if I can help, like I did with the mom and her kids near Tijuana. In fact, we’ve been locking the trailer when we go for walks here, which is a first.

Of all the spread-apart campsites in this park, this guy pulls his truck into the spot right next to ours, like, right there. Seriously, I don’t think there are any two closer campsites in the entire park. And of the 50 sites here, maybe five are occupied.

Now that I think about it though, he could have been gone while we pulled in right next to his campsite. Evidence says this isn’t the case though. Behold:

  • There’s a woman in there with him, but we’ve never seen her. She literally never leaves the truck, although I’ve seen him get a pillow out of the back for her. We know she’s in there because she makes vague sounds, rarely.
  • He arrives in the early morning, around 7:00, and stays in his truck all danged day long. For 12 hours. Then he drives away for the night.
  • For all those hours, we don’t see him or her walk away from the truck to use the bathroom or get food or stretch their legs. No sign of her, and no walking around for him.
  • He does get out of the driver’s seat every now and then to measure the truck cap and sort through coolers and buckets he’s got in the back.
  • He spends a lot of time on the phone.
  • He’s payed for his spot—$20/night—but doesn’t sleep there.

Theories about why he’s there:

  • Maybe he’s recently homeless and is gathering data to turn his truck into a truck camper.
  • Maybe he’s dealing drugs and delivering at night.
  • Maybe the woman with him is very sick and he’s isolating her and taking care of her.
  • Maybe he’s kidnapped this woman.
  • Maybe he’s giving her a place to shoot up (from the sounds we hear, this is a possibility).
  • Maybe he’s going to a homeless shelter each night that requires you to leave during the day.

The last theory seems likely, but we’re 30 minutes from the nearest town (Madera), and he’s paying $20/night when he could park nearly anywhere. And where does he put the human waste he and the woman must produce during the day?


Since I wrote this post, the guy has moved his truck to a campsite nearby, but at least not right on top of us. We joked that he must’ve mumbled to himself about those obnoxious, rich-ass Airstream idiots right on top of him. But there’s a park ranger here, so he had to go change his campsite with her, and she drives by every day to check on things and sees him just sitting in the driver’s seat.

I have an acquaintance (my sister’s friend) who lives out of his truck because his plans to move his sailboat (that he used to live in) have been stalled mid-transport. And we saw plenty of people living in their cars in the campground near Las Vegas. But there’s something different about this guy. For one thing, he’s paying for the spot but not using the bathroom, which I’m guessing is a bit reason why Folks who live in their vehicles pay for campgrounds.

Now that he’s moved away from us, he’s spending the night here, too. That solves one mystery. What about the woman, though? He’s too far away for me to hear if she’s still in the truck with him.

We’ve had a bunch of sketchy campground neighbors, from the murder-bragging ex-con in Ohio to the guy so clearly dealing drugs from his camper in Missouri. The only time I was tempted to call the cops was for the guy in Missouri because, for a while, he had a couple of little kids with him and I could hear shouts from inside, but, seriously, it sounded like they were playing video games. I’m certainly not going to rat out this guy unless it really does look like he’s holding that woman against her will, and I’m not seeing any signs of that. Plus, again, he had to interact with the park ranger—while in his truck—to book his site and then to change it.

The dramas of campground life. We’ll get used to it all again because we have at least 30 more to hit this spring and summer as we continue our trip up California and the coasts of Oregon and Washington, into Canada and eastward, then back down to the U.S. Midwest. I’ll be sure to pass on my most-intriguing stories for you as we explore!

4 thoughts to “Mystery Neighbor at the 21% Lake”

  1. This sounds like the kind of theorizing I would do. It all sounds like odd behavior.Hopefully the woman is ill, which sounds odd, but better than being tortured in there, but there are lots of unanswered questions.