Joining joggers, walkers, and cyclists on local recreational pathways are a certain number of recreational skaters, especially those using fast, sleek, in-line skates. Smooth, paved footpaths, bike paths and sidewalks, plus a few traffic-free roads throughout the county are suitable for skating, as long as they are reasonably flat and smooth, and as long as skating is legally allowed on them.
The following list of skating venues rank as my favorites:
• North Mission Bay. The almost perfectly flat section of concrete path starting at Crown Point Shores and curling around the Mission Bay shoreline into Sail Bay has nary a serious bump or rip. Self-propelled traffic is rather sparse — at least in comparison to Mission Bay’s oceanfront path nearby. You glide thorough the salt-tinged air and feel the periodic clack of your wheels traversing thin, non-threatening expansion cracks. Beyond the Catamaran Hotel (two miles), an older section of pathway (the Bayside Walk) continues along the bay shore to as far as West Mission Bay Drive.
• East Mission Bay. Some three miles of curling, nearly flat, aging, concrete pathway traverse the grassy east section of Mission Bay Park, wedged between the bay’s shoreline and East Mission Bay Drive. Start, if you want, at the less-busy De Anza Cove parking area in the north and navigate south to the Fiesta Island entrance. Beyond that, and heading south and west toward Sea World, is a newer concrete footpath along Mission Bay’s south shore.
•Balboa Park. Although skating is banned in the park’s historical and museum area and on the Cabrillo Bridge leading to it, you can legally skate in the park’s beautifully landscaped “West Mesa” area along Sixth Avenue. Try following the sidewalk route of the park’s 1.5-mile-long “Trail 1,” departing from the Sixth and Upas trail gateway, or follow any other paralleling route — including Balboa Drive, especially when it’s closed to car traffic (7 a.m. to sunset daily). All of the concrete or paved paths on West Mesa slope gently downward while you are heading south.
• Lake Miramar. The five-mile paved loop road around Lake Miramar is closed to automotive traffic Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. On the weekends traffic can be a zoo, with cyclists, skaters, and cars trying to squeeze around slow-moving pedestrians. There are a couple of dips sharp enough for beginners to fear; otherwise (when cars are gone) this is skating heaven.
• Lake Murray. Like Miramar’s road, the service road around Lake Murray has a mostly smooth, wide asphalt surface and only two significant dips. Fortunately for skaters, autos are banned from the route entirely. Starting at the main entrance and parking lot at the end of Kiowa Drive in La Mesa, you may follow the road three miles to a turnaround on the far side of the lake. No loop is possible, as there is no access across the narrow concrete dam. The water level in the lake fluctuates in an almost random fashion, depending on how much water is either stored or piped into the nearby water-treatment plant. No matter — there’s nearly always a fresh breeze blowing across the reservoir’s surface.
One final note: Don’t forget to wear your protective head gear and knee and elbow pads.