Laguna Woods Village residents are taking up hiking as a way to stay fit and explore the natural beauty of south Orange County.
Every Saturday morning the trail leader of the Laguna Woods Village Hiker’s Club, Elaine Tummond, puts on a pair of comfy shoes and heads off to lead a group of between 20 and 40 excited seniors to enjoy the great outdoors.
“It’s a fun way to meet people and get some exercise at the same time,” said Tummond, who has been the club’s guide since 2003 and a resident since 2002. “And you never know what you might see during one of our many excursions.”
A few years back during a walk at Soka University in Aliso Viejo, Tummond, 82, had a surprising encounter, coming face-to-face with a big ole’ buck.
“He was beautiful and with the most magnificent antlers,” said Tummond, a retired paralegal. “I came around the corner of a building and found myself eyeball-to-eyeball with him. I thought, ‘I never realized there was a statue there, but it was real.’ I couldn’t believe it since I had never seen a buck up close like that before. He looked like he was just floating when he saw me and took off; it was so neat.”
Where to meet
For those who want to don a pair of walking shoes and join Tummond and the group, the Hikers Club meets Saturdays at Clubhouse 3 promptly before 8:20 a.m. and returns around 10:45 a.m. Monthly and four-month schedules are available at various carousels throughout the Village.
“Our walks average about three miles, and some are more challenging than others. The walk that is the farthest away is about 18 miles, and it is in Newport Beach,” she said. “We are blessed to have so many beautiful places in the area to go to. It depends on what mood you’re in and what you want to do.”
The Laguna Woods Village Hiker’s Club started in 1966, about two years after the opening of what was then known as Leisure World, Tummond said, and it has grown each year.
Besides a decent pair of walking shoes, a hat or sun visor, sunscreen, and plenty of water, she asks joiners to be at the location on time.
“Carpools are arranged at that time and depending on how many volunteer drivers we get,” she said. “Just driving in one of the carpools for 20 to 30 minutes is a fun way to meet new people and be social. We’ve been getting a lot of new people every week, and it’s nice to see so many new faces.”
While the club has many hiking destinations, she said the Soka walk is one of the most popular and offers an optional brunch at the university afterward.
“They have a special price for our group which makes it an attractive eating event, and the walk is amazing because the grounds are so picturesque,” she added.
Membership is $7 a year. The club donates the excess money after expenses to local charities, such as the Foundation of Laguna Woods Village or Age Well Senior Services, she said. Those interested in the club can contact Tummond at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 949-768-3387.
Tummond encourages residents to get out and see the areas in and around the Village via the group.
“I see such good results from people who keep walking and staying active. And so many people show up on Saturday mornings that it seems as though people think it’s important. More and more people I think are realizing it’s a must to keep moving and exercising your mind as well as your body. People come eager and are ready to go and feel so much better after they return from the walk,” she said.
More hiking options
In addition to Tummond’s weekly guided tours, Laguna Woods Village is surrounded by a 22,000+ acre Wilderness Park with more than 70 miles of hiking trails, meadows, hills, coastal mountains overlooking the ocean and Orange County’s only natural lake, Barbara’s Lake.
Andy Cmiel, 71, a board member of Laguna Canyon Foundation and president of Friends of Laguna Canyon, (another Laguna Woods Club) is an avid hiker with his wife, Gail, 70. The couple have lived in the Village for 13 years and enjoy being able to get outdoors often.
“I personally hike the trails in the Laguna Canyon Wilderness Park as some trailheads are only minutes from my home in Laguna Woods. I can step outdoors and be on a trail in 10 minutes,” he said. “I try to hike the Wilderness Park at least four to five times a month, sometimes more. There’s a wonderful variety of trails to choose from.”
He said the most enjoyable aspect of hiking the Wilderness Parks is what most others like: the peace, quiet and serenity of nature that can be found only minutes from their Laguna Woods homes.
“We all live in an urban environment with traffic, people and stress. The Wilderness Parks provide a beautiful natural escape. Once you are on a trail, you no longer see houses, you don’t hear traffic, all you experience is nature, birds singing, the wind and quiet of your thoughts. A very valuable resource,” he said.
Laguna Canyon Foundation maintains the Wilderness Parks and offers free hikes and nature programs every month to the public. All nature programs are led by an OC Parks ranger, docent or another naturalist. For more information about events and more at the venue visit lagunacanyon.org.
Village tree walks
Those who want to further explore and bond with nature in Laguna Woods Village can check out the Laguna Woods Village tree guides – one or all three – each offering a personal experience with nature (and, of course, trees), according to resident and co-creator of the guides, Pat Wilkinson.
Wilkinson, 84, along with friend and co-creator Jean Lustig, crafted the tree guides in 2018 and they are available at the Laguna Woods Village History Center. The guides also can be downloaded for free to print or watch online at lagunawoodshistory.org/community/treeguide
Thanks to the guides, the tree walks can be easily accessed by residents who aren’t able to get to local hiking areas outside the Village, she said.
There are about 25 trees to see per guide/walk and each tells a story from the beginning to the end of the trail.
“The reason Jean and I started the tree guides was because people were asking about the old walks and the maps that used to be put out by the recreation department. What started out as a small project turned into something so much larger,” Wilkinson said. “ It has been a wonderful eye-opener for the History Center and now people know a little of what we are and what we do.”
There are three guides: The Aliso Creek Tree Walk guide, The Serpentine Walk guide and The Friendship Tree Walk guide, which is the first of Laguna Woods Village Vintage Walks, established in 1966. The Serpentine Walk, established in the late 1960s, is the third and longest of the Village Vintage Walks, Wilkinson said.
“The walks are self-guided, but the guides we did are very helpful,” she said. “Each has pictures of all the trees on each walk with an explanation of what they are about and where they come from, as well as an anecdote that may be interesting.”
Wilkinson, a resident for 23 years, has done all three tree walks and said she likes The Serpentine the best.
“It is so open and the longest,” she explained. “All the people around that walk take special care of their gardens which are just lovely in the spring and summer, and especially when the trees bloom.”
She said all the walks are “easy to do because they are all flat and there isn’t the issue of going up and down hills. It’s great for walkers, hikers and those in wheelchairs, too.”
However, those unable to get out can watch the video of all three walks combined, which is about 30 minutes.
“I did the videos online for people who are housebound or unable to actually take the walk – this way they can enjoy them from the comfort of their favorite chair,” she said.
Wilkinson said when Leisure World and being built in 1965 there were 58,000 trees planted, and they came from all over the world. Today, there are about 34,000 left as many have died or have been removed due to disease and overgrowth.
“People overall really like the tree guides because it gives them the chance to learn about the trees, Wilkinson said. “A lot of people walk but they don’t necessarily pay attention to the trees. Through the tree guides, they can enjoy where they came from, their names, and more.”
Source: Orange County Register