Weathering a San Diego Winter
By Thomas K. Arnold
(page 1 of 2)NOVEMBER IS AT HAND. Phone the relatives in Buffalo or extended family in Cleveland about how their winter plans are shaping up. Shoveling snow, shopping for new mittens and stocking up on antifreeze are probably part of the daily grind.
Now it’s your turn. San Diego’s politicians and pension planners may not be financial whiz kids. But those of us who choose to live in America’s Most Temperate City know how to enjoy a good “winter.”
Brrrrrrr—not. We get more hours of sunshine during the winter than the good ol’ summertime. Actually miss colder climes? Get some professional help, but also know the white stuff is often in stock close by, in Julian or Mount Palomar.
We are aware that furnishing the following list of San Diego “winter” activities is: 1. Kind of uppity. 2. Jealousy-inducing. 3. Risky.
Why risky? Think about it. If this kind of information gets widely disseminated, prepare for an even greater onslaught of visits from family and friend. Sure, rub our year-roundedness in the face of your annoying cousins back in Boston. But if you’re burdened with familial obligations to host your parents upon their whim, well, make sure you don’t forward a copy of this issue.
1. Surf More than the Internet
Weathering a San Diego WinterThe famed New Jersey shore has become such a hotbed for East Coast surfers, there’s now a Web site dedicated to singing the praises of such celebrated sites as Sandy Hook (“the only legitimate pointbreak in New Jersey”) and Monmouth Beach (“a punchy beachbreak that comes to life on any swell”). But with average winter temperatures in the state hovering around the freezing point—and the water so cold even the fish migrate south—don’t expect much hanging-10 after Labor Day.
Here in San Diego, surfers ride the waves year-round. A company called Surfin Fire (760-473-2281) offers year-round surfing lessons in the waters off Encinitas and Carlsbad. Surfin Fire—most of the instructors are firefighters—offers private and group lessons throughout the winter months, starting at $50 an hour.
“A lot of people think surfing is just a summer activity,” says owner and Encinitas firefighter Jon Peterson. “But you can get some really nice days even in January.”
2. Swim with the Fishes
North Carolina’s Outer Banks are great for summer snorkeling. Water temperatures in the Atlantic are 70 to 80 degrees. Sand tiger sharks and lion fish abound. Come fall, water temperatures plunge to 40 degrees. Any and all water-sport activity comes to an abrupt end.
Not so at La Jolla Cove. This sheltered inlet is part of the nearly 6,000-acre San Diego–La Jolla Underwater Park and Ecological Preserve. The cove is teeming with sea life, hidden among offshore kelp beds and reefs. La Jolla Adventures (1255 Coast Boulevard, 858-551-2683) offers year-round snorkeling tours, led by guides who are certified emergency medical technicians. Tours start at $55.
“Some of the best snorkeling at La Jolla Cove happens in the winter months,” says owner Yvette Renee. “Crowds thin, skies remain clear, the air is warm, and the visibility is spectacular.”
3. Walk This Way
Northern Michigan, with vast acres of hardwood and pine forests, is a hiker’s paradise. One of the best spots is Swan Lake, in the Hiawatha National Forest. The terrain is fairly level, consisting of pine plantations interspersed with hardwoods and hemlocks. Of course, a hike during winter risks frostbite—or bears. Or both.
Not so at Torrey Pines State Park. At the home of the rare Torrey pine you can hike through a pine forest and wind down a chaparral-studded cliff all the way to the beach. The trails are filled all year, but many locals prefer the winter months for two reasons: fewer people, and a temperature not much different than summer.
Good Shoes, Credit Cards, Sunblock
Weathering a San Diego WinterThe great Mall of America in Minneapolis is truly a sight to behold. The New York Times once reported the vast complex, with more than 520 stores and 50 restaurants, attracts more annual visitors than Disney World, Graceland and the Grand Canyon, combined. Of course, to four-season Minnesotans, the concept of an outdoor mall is unheard of—particularly one that’s open during the winter.
San Diego’s Christmas shoppers can acquire material possessions beneath the cool night sky, at such festively decorated open-air malls as Fashion Valley (619-688-9113), Horton Plaza (619-238-1596) and University Towne Centre (858-453-2930). So what if you’re battling the crowds, packed down with presents like a Sherpa? There’s plenty of comfort and joy in the knowledge the twinkling lights up above are actual stars.
5. Play on, Boys of Summer
Weathering a San Diego Winter While the Cheeseheads in Green Bay are huddled around grills in the parking lot at Lambeau Field— choking down brats and watching their breath as they exhort about the Packers—some San Diegans are still swinging bats.
Major League Baseball gives way to the NFL, but amateur boys of summer can slug away all the way into December, courtesy of the San Diego Adult Baseball League (858-292- 7510; sdabl.com). The league’s second season begins in mid-September—expecting an early frost this year, Mr. Cheesehead?—and runs right into the Christmas month. There are leagues for 18 and older, 28 and older and 38 and older, in A, AA and AAA skill levels, now sliding safely into bases at high school fields throughout the county.