San Diego, Part Three: Chollas Lake Provides a Path Back to Nature

Fly back to nature at San Diego's Chollas Lake.

Our last stop on our 24-hour San Diego getaway was a visit to Chollas Lake. This is a spot that I only visited as a kid when I went with school or day camps; I do remember fishing here with bamboo poles and not ever catching a thing (ah, memories). While most people would not see the lake as such by many other standards, it is a decent-sized watering hole surrounded by hiking and walking paths tucked away in a quiet corner of an otherwise city-center chock full of urban activity. And once inside the park, you do get to escape the crazy of what is happening on the streets outside, so that definitely counts for something.

Grandma and T head down to the shore of Chollas Lake.

Just 15 minutes East of downtown San Diego, Chollas Lake is a city park land that offers not just an escape but also a variety of activities for visitors. While swimming isn’t allowed (because sadly it isn’t), kids under 15 years old are welcome to bring their own fishing gear and go fish. Kids then are welcome to take certain quantities of fish home license-free according to posted signs (you can check out the different size and type limits here). Not a bad deal!

Beep beep (ha ha! get it, Grandma BEEP!)!! said the geese to my poor mom... but she finally got the bread opened and fed to these honk-tastic geese, thank goodness!

While we didn’t fish on this trip, there were plenty of other things to keep T busy. One thing we’d planned to do on our visit was feed the birds (this is something my mom loves to do, and she’s passed it down to me and now to T). From the moment we got out of the car and started on the path down toward the lake, wild geese charged us immediately; guess they got the memo we were coming! Thankfully, we came prepared with bags of old bread, but the birds were so aggressive toward my mom that she was having trouble getting into the bags of bread fast enough to quiet their very loud honking! T was pretty entertained – and so was I – to say the least. But once we settled in, the birds backed off a bit and we were able to feed the geese, ducks, and other water fowl without them nipping at our heels, too much anyway.

Hey, here's some bread; now please, go on now!

Some squirrels even tried to get in on the action, but they were even more aggressive than the birds! I guess like most parks like this one all of the animals are just very used to being fed by people, which makes sense. Dozens of picnic tables dot the shore along Chollas Lake, and the lake is also encircled by a walking path just under a mile long. There are plenty of picnic spots and as a result, plenty of opportunities for the animals to clean up after picnickers.

T speaks loudly and carries a lot of sticks down at Chollas Lake in San Diego.

Another favorite activity of T’s while out on nature walks is to pick up leaves, rocks, and sticks. Moms, please listen up: Chollas Lake is a stick goldmine. T found sticks taller than he was; he grabbed up thick sticks; he picked up thin sticks; he located young sticks with leaves still attached that had fallen; he pointed out forked sticks; and of course, he loaded his bucket up with rocks, too. If you have a stick scavenger at home and live anywhere remotely near Chollas Lake, get on down there and let the kid go to town.

Cool old play equipment down at Chollas Lake, San Diego.

Before we wrapped up our adventure, T got to climb on and explore what appeared to be either a very old playground or some sort of exercise center. The equipment was made up of older wood-and-metal-style bars and structures; some of the structures looked like small cabins, and there was even an old car to ride.

Lake-front views await you at Chollas Lake, San Diego.

I had totally forgotten Chollas Lake even existed before our outing that morning, but not anymore. Next time we hit San Diego, we’ll try to get the fishing tackle together and head back over and let T give that a shot (a take-two from his first time out fishing elsewhere, that is). Then again, even if we forget the fishing stuff, as long as we have some old bread and a bucket for stick and rock collecting, T’s probably going to have just as much fun, if not more!

T and his Grandma feeding birds at Chollas Lake, San Diego.