A Dam Peaceful Place: Lake Hodges, San Diego.
In January of 2017, my husband and I discovered a new retreat, the Lake Hodges dam and trails.
That's not entirely true. We'd seen the dam many, many times before, driving by in cars or riding past on the motorcycles. But we had never stopped at the dirt parking lot to investigate what was down there until recently and are glad we finally made the 30 mile trek north from San Diego to the dam.
Hodges the lake was formed by the completion of Hodges the dam in 1918, and the lake was and is fed by the San Dieguito Creek. I don't know what that means exactly yet the official county and park websites say it's important.
The dam itself is quite impressive: It's of a style that I've never seen in person, with it's open, multiple arch concrete structure; it looks almost Roman or Grecian, if Romans or Greeks had access to paint and spray cans. Usually I think of dams as giant, impressive (but unimpressive perhaps in terms of design) solid walls of concrete that take a hundred years to fully cure. I imagine the engineers knew they just didn't need to build such a dam here as they were not holding back as much pressure.
Leaving the parking area, you are able to walk down a trail to a few markers and plaques which tell you about the area, the dam, the creepy yet still-standing trunk of a burnt out tree (good story!), and which trails you can take and in which direction. Honestly, we found it somewhat confusing as there are signs warning you not to go toward the dam, but if you do, stay on the trails. Whaaa?
Whichever direction you go, you should definitely stay on the trails. Depending on the time of year, there are rattlesnakes and lord knows what else out there (coyotes, weasels, werewolves? Damn, nature, you scary!). We've taken our walking shoes, cameras, and drone on the trails leading away from the dam and found so many interesting things to see. Besides the beautiful scenery (and I suppose that's debatable, depending on the time of year and how lush or dried up, awaiting fire season), we've come across discarded furniture, washing machine drums, and even an entire car (a Toyota from the 70s).
We will venture back soon, but probably not until after the the coming summer. It can get quite warm there, and only on a small percentage of the trails will you ever encounter overhanging trees.
No matter because each time we go back (three times as of this writing), we walk a little further, see more, photograph and drone a little more. Some walking trails are closer to the elevated two lane road that passes the lake and the dam, others are further below and away from it. Any of the paths you take are relatively quiet and a pleasant walk. We've found the trails and the surroundings to be peaceful and though not totally away from the city, a respite from all that other noise. It's a nice way to clear your head and get some exercise.