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A weekend in Hemet offers more than just another fish story

My brother-in-law bought a new fishing boat. My husband, full of sibling envy but unwilling to splurge, demanded a new fishing trip. Friends steered us to Diamond Valley Lake in Hemet (really a massive reservoir, tip of the hat to the Metropolitan Water District) where by 8 a.m. on a recent sunny October Saturday, a certain shore fisherman had snagged a couple of large-mouth bass and nearly stepped on an agitated rattlesnake.

The marina hand did warn us about what he called those “buzzworms.” Non-anglers can flee to higher ground to walk or bike the lake’s scenic, breezy loop path (21 miles total) or go down the  hill to see Ice Age giants Xena, Max and Little Stevie at the adjoining Western Science Center (2345 Searl Parkway, Hemet; (951) 791-0033) full of fossils uncovered during the 1990s excavation of the reservoir. Tab: We spent $135 a night, including taxes and fees, for a king bed studio with sofa bed at the Hampton Inn & Suites near the lake, plus $175 for meals and $375 for a fishing guide, parking and admissions.

The bed

Of paramount importance to anglers: The Hampton Inn’s weekend buffet breakfast starts at 6 a.m., and the lake is 10 minutes down the road, thus allowing for a first cast during that all-important early-morning “bite.”  Oh yeah, and the beds at the Hampton Inn  (3700 W. Florida Ave., Hemet; [951] 929-7373) are comfy. The front desk was generous about early check-in and late check-out.

The meal

A locked gate stopped us from seeing the Maze Stone, a Native American petroglyph just outside Hemet, but we did find the Maze Stone restaurant atop the Country Club at Soboba Springs (1020 Soboba Road, San Jacinto;  [951] 654-4300). As the sun dipped over the golf course, we started happy hour with wonton tiger shrimp appetizers, followed by cedar-plank salmon with asparagus risotto and broccolini and a juicy ribeye steak. The docents at the 1880s-era Estudillo Mansion and adjoining San Jacinto Museum  (memorabilia includes photos of a young Raquel Tejada, later Welch, in the 1959 Ramona Pageant) directed me to Emilio’s for lunch (2340 S. San Jacinto Ave., San Jacinto; [951] 925-3721), where extra guacamole was generously spread on spicy fish tacos.