Trailmaster Schad's best picks for outdoor roller skating.

Joining the long-time joggers, walkers, and bikers on our county's recreational pathways are increasing numbers of recreational skaters, especially those using fast, sleek, in-line skates. Certain paved footpaths, bike paths and sidewalks, plus a few traffic-free roads throughout the county, have become popular skaters' venues of late, though not all have the desired flat and smooth surfaces. The following list of four rank as my favorites:

*North Mission Bay. The glassy-smooth and almost perfectly flat newer 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 light. You glide thorough the salt-tinged air and feel the periodic clack of your wheels traversing thin, nonthreatening expansion cracks. Beyond the Catamaran Hotel (two miles), an older, busier, and more decrepit 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, slowly 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 newly poured concrete footpath along the south shore.

*Lake Miramar. The 5.2-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. The asphalt is deteriorating in a few places, and 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, the service road around Lake Murray has a mostly smooth, wide asphalt surface and has only two significant dips. Fortunately for skaters, autos are banned from the route entirely. Starting at the main 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. Currently, the water level of the lake is down some 15 feet to allow for construction associated with the adjacent water treatment plant and shoreline recreational facilities. By November work will be completed, and the reservoir water level should return to capacity.

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