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CHASING DOWN THE MUSE:Laguna has too much traffic

Tiny feathers and toes scurried in the underbrush, tossing up small pillows of dust. Thirteen micro-sized California quail chicks darted through the dry scrub, pecking and scratching for tidbits and tasty morsels. “Mom” waited and cajoled with cooing noises, while “Dad” fluttered to a perch in a dry bush and nodded, as if to count, as each chick passed into the safety of shrub cover.

A walk on the wild side? More like respite from the wilder crowds and traffic that have jammed the beaches and streets of Laguna.

Walking has become the vehicle of choice "” and it’s not even summer yet. While gasoline prices force choices between restaurant dining and driving, the bigger problem is that of movement and parking.

These issues are not new to Laguna, but as the population centers fill in land that was once trampled only by ranching cattle, the press of bodies and vehicles into our town has escalated to new levels.

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I’m not sure what happens at 3:20 p.m. each day, except the release of students from Thurston and the high school, but as traffic jams from Cress Street and beyond, driving becomes impossible.

Coast Highway, Glenneyre and Catalina are backed up. Third Street into downtown is impassable, as are Forest, Beach and Ocean.

I had a 3:30 p.m. hair appointment with Bill at Furioso three weeks ago. Client meetings had taken me to Aliso Viejo and to avoid the canyon traffic, and I came in from Crown Valley Parkway to the south.

As traffic slowed on Coast Highway, I turned up at Bluebird to Glenneyre, and "¦ stopped. Had there been an accident? Road work?

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I was frantic, thinking that I’d be late, and Bill would be upset. Should I park the car and start running? By my watch, marked at 3 p.m. at Cress Street, it took 23 minutes to make my way to a treasured parking spot on Second Avenue across from the salon. This distance is what, two miles?

This mania I assumed was a one-time deal. Possibly I’d missed something "” a fender-bender or something I hadn’t seen that caused the back-up. Except the same thing happened the next day and the next, and persists into this middle week in June.

I’m trying to imagine what will happen when the next blast of planned communities sprouts at the end of Laguna Canyon Road. The extension of Lake Forest Drive means a new route of access for the residents of Laguna, longer commuting time both in and out of town.

And of course, the ongoing question, what to do with all the visitors when they arrive?

We continue to be mired in conversations about a city (I refuse to call us a village) “entrance,” with arguments against any kind of parking, as if it were a scourge instead of a boon to retail and dining.

Come summer, residents are forced to change their habits "” shopping, if it is to happen at all in town, early, before the visitors either wake up or make their way to town. If we need something late in the afternoon, chances are we’ll decide to do without, rather than fight for one of the rare spaces where we can park our cars.

Of course, there are great benefits to walking. The heart and cardiovascular system are happy to be engaged. Changes in the neighborhood are more readily perceived. New dogs, cats or babies can be heard. Chance conversations about gardening and politics happen on the fly. The fragrance and colors of spring flowers delight the senses.

Yes, it is the season of walking, but this time of year, rather than the city’s streets, I find myself either heading to Crystal Cove State Park or onto the trails of our own Laguna Wilderness Park.

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Something about needing to get away, even if for a few hours, a respite from the sense of too many people and cars.

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Up on the hilltop, “Dad” quail makes his final nod as the last chick scurries for shelter. He hops down from his perch and follows his brood. While we can no longer see them, Steve and I listen to their soft clucking “ut-ut” sounds.

We gaze at the vista of Laguna at a distance. She certainly is a lovely place, and we certainly are lucky to live here "” with or without the traffic.


  • CATHARINE COOPER loves wild places. She can be reached at
  • cooper@catharinecooper.com.


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