Guest Opinion: Green Light – Glorious Aliso Peak!

By Tom Osborne

On a recent walk through our neighborhood, I encountered Dr. Myron Wacholder, a friend, retired physician, and fellow organic vegetable grower at the South Laguna Community Garden Park. I asked him where he was heading, and he replied, “Aliso Peak.” Now Myron is my age, 80, and the climb up the Valido Trail to that 683-foot summit is more challenging than it may sound. My recollection from having climbed up there a year ago is that the descent from the top can be treacherous because of the steepness and loose, gravely surface. If one stumbles there, it would not be pretty. 


When I asked Myron about the trail conditions, he said there were new steps up to the summit. That bit of information about the new steps and Myron’s excitement about the hike incentivized me to try it. So I took off from our house on foot for Aliso Peak on a mid-September morning with high hopes, my walking sticks and a small flask of water. 


A little over half an hour later, I made it up the repaired trail and new steps to the Aliso Summit. I tried and failed to take a selfie (but got a great picture of my thumb) to send to my wife, who was hiking in the Adirondack Mountains of New York with female friends. Some of our friends have said she’s taking a week’s vacation from me. 


Back to my story, while marveling at the panoramic view from the top, another hiker arrived. We exchanged amenities and names, and I asked him to take a photo of me at the summit with my camera. He obliged. Then I looked down at his footwear; he was wearing Allbirds Tree Dasher running shoes, the same model and color as mine. I told him–Andy was his name–our younger son is a senior product manager for Allbirds, headquartered in San Francisco. These durable, sustainably constructed shoes are made from Eucalyptus fiber with sugar cane-derived soles while the laces are manufactured from recycled plastic bottles. Merino wool comprises the heel lining. 


The company is working on sustainably disposing of worn-out shoes to keep them out of landfills.  


I apologize, dear readers, for my digressions. Coming back down from the peak, I marveled at the wonderful stairway that now makes it possible for this geezer to return safely to my once regular hikes up to the peak. The experience made my day. I’m sure my wife will want to join me on these Valido Trail hikes when she returns home from the East Coast. Yes, she assured me she was returning home. 


Before signing off, I want to remind readers and all Lagunans about the upcoming Art Museum’s annual “Art & Nature” program in November. I know of no other event in town that so aesthetically and evocatively captures Laguna’s singular fusion of its natural endowments with human renderings of the same on canvas and in collages and photographs. Anyone unsure of Laguna’s identity and culture in these topsy-turvy times will doubtlessly come away enlightened. For all others, the program will likely offer up the same provocative art and intellectual stimulation as always. In keeping with the theme of “The Sea Around Us,” the featured speaker will be famed oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, often referred to as “Her Deepness.”  


Until then, I hope to see you on Laguna’s trails and hiking in our treasured Greenbelt. While you’re at it, try the Valido Trail up to Aliso Peak, especially in the morning. Then send an email to OC Parks Supervisor Ranger Bryan Valladares and express gratitude for the trail work that makes those hikes doable and enjoyable at [email protected]


Tom Osborne is an environmental historian writing a history of California’s environmental leadership. He and his wife, Ginger, co-lead the Laguna chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Contact: [email protected]

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