to count the rings on its rattle. Nothing like a good hike to give
meaning to a couple of the English language's sillier idioms.
Those who haven't ventured into Laguna's backcountry are missing
one of Orange County's most rare locales. What other nearby city can
boast of even having a backcountry? A case could be made that the
ocean is Newport Beach's backcountry, but Laguna Beach's backcountry
stamps the ocean as its front-country.
For only $2 per vehicle, visitors can pile into SUVs and spend
their weekends away from the city's inevitable good-weather traffic
jams by entering one of the few Orange County territories virtually
unstained by human hands. Walk about a mile into Laguna Coast
Wilderness Park and you'll see a lot of what many Lagunans call
heaven -- open space.
More important than its openness, however, is what the open space
looks like. If the South Coast Wilderness system looked like the
quite open San Joaquin Valley it wouldn't be so sacred, and I
wouldn't have spent my Saturday applying meaning to silly idioms by
walking through it.
Just one left turn on the Laurel Canyon trail, behind a natural
wall called a mountain, the sound of speeding cars just a few hundred
feet away was drowned by chirping insects and singing birds, and the
smell of wildflowers and sagebrush replaced asphalt and exhaust.
Far from an expert when it comes to flowers, I can say there were
several red ones, blue ones, orange ones, purple, yellow -- all your
basic colors are covered out there. And like the flowers you can buy
from florists, they smell good. Crazy.
For the curious, or some may say stupid, you can also hear the
famous warning of the rattlesnake if you choose to encroach on its
idea of open space -- about five feet, in the case of the one I ran
across. Hiking with one of my best friends, we saw the snake from
about 20 feet away. We passed without incident, but it took exception
when I crept back for a good look at the rattle. It assumed striking
position, put its rattle to work, we went on our merry way, and that
About 2/3 of the snake's two-foot length stuck proudly into the