Diamond Valley Lake

Diamond Valley Lake

I’m not sure whether to categorize this trip as a Sunday Drive or Off the Beaten Path because it was actually both.

It WAS a Sunday drive and it WAS off the beaten path so I guess I will call this one “A Sunday Drive off the Beaten Path.”

We heard about this lake when our staff activity arranger JoJo, fished there as part of a special nighttime fishing derby. At night you couldn’t see how big this lake really was so it was time for a day trip!

Far off of the beaten path and by that I mean the 215 Freeway, the drive takes you quite a few miles until you finally reach the entrance to the lake near the city of Hemet.

The lake is actually a reservoir and no swimming is allowed. I used to think they didn’t want our yucky bodies in the water, but in fact reservoirs have various safety reasons not to allow swimming.

However, to cool you off, The Diamond Valley Aquatic Center sits right below the hill that takes you up to the lake and is equipped with a water slide, water fountain sprayers, and plenty to do for the whole family to cool off on those warm valley days.

Nearby, the Western Science Center was built and features exhibits or artifacts found during the construction of the lake.

Diamond Valley Lake (also known as The Diamond), is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in Southern California. It has a capacity of 800,000 acre feet, 260 ft deep, and with over 4,500 surface acres. It holds enough water to meet the area’s emergency drought needs for at least six months. The lake features three earth filled dams located on either side of the valley and one on the north side.

A Big Lake with a Big View
On this bright and sunny Sunday, the air temperature was a perfect 82 degrees with mild winds skimming across the water surface.

So what is this lake/reservoir all about, what is there to do? That is exactly what we wanted to find out.

We drove up to a sizable parking lot and then headed to the only building in sight which turned out to be home to a store and where you can sign in to rent boats.

We didn’t expect that they would have anything to rent but they did in fact have two pontoon boats available. This was too much boat for the two of us so we decided to just walk around and view the lake.

The rental prices aren’t bad and you can check out a few different fishing boats or the eight passenger pontoons. I suggest getting reservations, though, as they are scooped up pretty fast.

Parking for the day is $9.00 and a fishing access permit is $6.00.

There is Nothing like a Lake

The actual lake/reservoir took me aback as I was surprised on how large it was! It spanned as far as you could see and had a beautiful blue tint.

During my short hike on the trail, all you could hear was the rhythmic sound of water lapping against the shore while the majestic blue of the lake provided eye candy for the soul. I tried to capture the water splashing sound on my video camera, but all you could hear was the wind.

As it was the sunniest part of the day, the lake shone bright with the wind causing a thousand small white caps on the surface which made them look like shimmering diamonds. For a brief moment I thought that this might be why they call it Diamond Valley Lake, but that is not why. It is actually a coincidence though, as the lake is named after where it is located, in the Domenigoni/Diamond Valleys, not because if its appearance.

You can’t drive around this lake so, no motor vehicles are allowed on the trails.  The marina and the store are the only places to park your car.  They have seating and tables under a cool tarp where you can kick back and get a full view of the water below and beyond.

The view from the shaded tables

The wide and well-maintained trails are the only way to see more of the lake by walking, hiking, or bicycles and the north trail allows horseback riding. Or hike down to a few small beaches or rocky areas for shore fishing.

Part of the trails

In the spring I am told that the wildflowers are a spectacular sight around the surrounding hills so I think I will be coming back.

After I got home, I researched the place and discovered that it is one of the best spots to fish in California. On Google images, I saw some photos of fisherman pulling in enormous fish that were the size of small children, and they were no joke! The lake is home to Striper, Pan fish, Catfish, Large Mouth Bass, and Trout among others.

Now that I finally was able to see Diamond Valley Lake, I was most impressed with the overall beauty of the reservoir itself. It isn’t a touristy place with restaurants and shops, it’s for boating, fishing, hiking, walking, bicycling, and picnicking. So if you like any of these things, this is the place for you.

Three lakes in a row I have visited in the past two weeks and I have loved them all. but now… it is time for the coast! Stay tuned for the Pacific Ocean.



Off the Beaten Path, San Marcos

Off the Beaten Path, San Marcos

I would imagine that San Marcos, California doesn’t show up on many preferred vacation lists.  It is just some random city in Southern California.  However, it does have a lake and would you believe that it has a resort that was named in the top 25 hotels in the U.S. by Trip Advisors in 2014?

For us, it is more of a staycation, a one day visit that will take us off the beaten path to not one but two lakes, although one of them only covers about five acres and probably barely shows up on a map.

Education, Eats, and Electronics
The town of San Marcos has a population of about 95,000 and is situated in the North County part of San Diego County.  It is home to the illustrious Cal State San Marcos University and Palomar College.

There are plenty of modern shopping centers in the area plus a few stores only exclusive to San Marcos. I’m talking Fry’s Electronics where you could browse the television section for hours or gaze at the giant fish tank that greets you when you walk in the door.

The other is, the eclectic Hobby Lobby which is right down the road from Fry’s and where you will find all sorts of decorations for the home or patio plus brilliant ideas if you are so inclined to be creative.   There are not that many of these arts and crafts stores around Southern California, so San Marcos was

Just off of San Marcos Blvd sits Old Restaurant Row which features 14 different eating establishments and a huge movie complex.   From Sushi, to hot wings, to Mexican and much more, you should be able to find something good to eat!

Scenery and Serenity on a couple of Lakes
Away from the restaurants and the shops, we decided to head off the beaten path to visit Lake San Marcos and Discovery Lake.

Discovery Lake is a small lake right in the middle of a residential area.  Just off of the 78 freeway, you will have to use your GPS to find it, as it takes you through a neighborhood of homes until you end up in front of the parking lot.

You don’t even see the lake until you get out of your car and walk a little. This five-acre lake is surrounded by a park plus hiking, biking, and walking trails. Dogs are allowed with a leash.

The trails around the lake are paved and make it really easy for all fitness levels to enjoy the scenery.    There are other trails spread out beyond the lake with some that extend higher into the hills. If you huffed and puffed on the lake trail, maybe you will want to stay away from those.   The paved trails make it so easy to walk with your family, dogs, kids in strollers, and wheelchairs.

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Leo Carrillo State Park

Leo Carrillo State Park

I was invited up for the day to visit some friends that were camping for a week at Leo Carrillo State Park.  It is just outside of the main part of Malibu so from Oceanside I was thinking it might be an hour and forty- five minute drive.  On a Tuesday morning however, it actually took two and a half hours and that was virtually with no traffic. As I was driving back home later in the evening, I thought to myself that it was well worth the drive!

Leo Carrillo State Park can be easily accessed from Southern as well as Central California. As I was nearing the park entrance, I noticed a sign that said 21 miles to Oxnard.  I didn’t realize how far up the coast I had traveled.

Driving north through the main part of Malibu past Pepperdine University and Zuma Beach, the state park could go unnoticed unless you were actually looking for the sign. Obviously some people know all about this place as the campground was full and even though it was mid week, there were scores of people on the beach. Even if you are not camping, you can use the day use parking for $12.00 a day.

The Campground
The campground sits amongst the Malibu hills and the campsites were surrounded by every type of tree imaginable. If you really stretched your telephoto lens, you could also see a few sizable mansions way up in the hills.

Besides having some of the largest campsites I have ever seen, the park also provided a picnic bench,a fire pit, and a cute little store was on the premises.

There were plenty of birds in the trees and you could hear them squawking from far away. They added to the wonderful sounds of nature that went along with the frogs and crickets at night. It is nature’s ambient music at its best.

The trees also provided much needed shade to the campsites

Relaxation is what these campgrounds are all about, however, with the beach so close it allows for playtime too.

After a great lunch it was time to take the short walk to the beach. We crossed through the parking lot and walked under the  Highway 1 bridge. Colorful marine life paintings greeted you on the walls and columns of the bridge as you made your way to this popular sand playground.

The road to the beach

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