Not all North Countians flock to the beaches on warm, sunny weekends. Quite a fair portion gravitate toward Lake Miramar, which is fast becoming a recreational mecca for anyone interested in boating, fishing, walking, jogging, biking, or skating.
On any given Sunday morning, hundreds of self-propelled travelers are busy making the circuit around the 5-mile perimeter road, which was recently surfaced with a fresh, smooth coat of asphalt.
The lake itself, perched halfway up the dry hills overlooking Mira Mesa and the coastal plain, was completed in 1960 as part of the Second San Diego Aqueduct project. Water shipped south into the reservoir originates from both the Colorado River Aqueduct and the California Aqueduct. In a year of average rainfall these two sources satisfy more than 90% of San Diego County's water needs. An important component in the city of San Diego's emergency water storage system, Lake Miramar is kept nearly full all the time.
Not long ago, North County's creeping suburbia was out of sight from most parts of the lake, but today condominiums and tile-roofed houses soar like battlements on some of the surrounding hillsides. Recently cut bulldozer scars on the hilltop north of the lake promise a new round of building before long.
Still, there is a sense of splendid quiet and peacefulness as you wind your way around the convoluted perimeter road, tend a fishing line on one of the floating piers, or bob up and down in a rowboat or a motorized skiff. And, of course, there's a subtle but powerful sense of wildness in the pungent scents of the sage scrub and chaparral vegetation coating the slopes hereabouts. April and May's blush of vivid color is gone, but a few plants, notable California buckwheat and chamise, are flowering inconspicuously.
Summer's warmer temperatures are finally upon us, so it's best to arrive during the early morning or come during the late afternoon.
The lake's normal sunrise-to-sunset hours now translate to 5 a.m.--8 p.m.; these hours will shorten as fall approaches. Water-oriented recreation, including boating, fishing, and sailboarding is limited to Saturday through Tuesday (more information about such uses can be heard in a recorded message at 465-3474). Wednesday through Friday you can still park, picnic at designated facilities, and cruise the perimeter by foot, bike, or skates.
The perimeter road's consistently flat course is perfect for skaters, cyclists, and long-distance runners--but perhaps a bit too long for the average stroller. If you're walking, try the clockwise direction first--west toward the dam on the traffic-free service road, and then across the top of the earthen dam to the lake's far side. You'll reach the end of a vehicle turnaround after about 1 1/2 miles (there's some car traffic ahead of this point), where you can decide to turn back for a round trip of 3 miles, or continue ahead to complete the 5-mile loop.
For picnicking, try the new picnic area overlooking the north side of the lake (2 miles by foot or bike via the dam, 3 miles by car via the east end of the lake). The secluded sites there are more agreeable than the somewhat trampled picnic facilities back near the concession stand at the lake's entrance.
The earthen dam that impounds the contents of the lake stands 150 feet above the reservoir bottom. To the west the drop is precipitous toward I-15 and the sprawl of Mira Mesa. The often hazy, summertime view stretches over a carpet-like expanse of eucalyptus trees in nearby Scripps Ranch, and extends to Miramar Naval Air Station and Kearny Mesa. The eucalyptus-covered area was once part of Rancho Miramar, the retreat of publishing magnate E.W. Scripps.
In somewhat clearer weather, Soledad Mountain and the emerging "Golden Triangle" skyline punctuate the horizon to the west. Ocean views are not common from here, except during clear weather in the late fall and winter.