New Year’s resolution turn into pandemic hobby
By Sharael Kolberg
What started out as a New Year’s resolution ended up being the perfect activity to keep busy during the coronavirus pandemic. Janelle Naess, founder of Laguna Beach Walks, challenged herself to walk all 419 streets in Laguna Beach in 2020, and she only has one street left.
“For the past 20 plus years, I have walked some of the same streets in town,” says Naess. “Almost every house I pass by has something interesting to see. I call it ‘urban hiking.’ I thought about all the other streets I haven’t walked and was dying to see what else I was missing.”
Naess can often be seen walking alone or with friends in various parts of Laguna, often with her bright pink nbrhd hat that appropriately reads, “Stoked.” It started in 2012, when Naess had a different goal in mind…to see all the pieces in the Laguna Beach Public Art Collection, which is close to 75.
“While on my quest to find the art, I found so many other interesting aspects of our unique coastal community,” says Naess. “If I, a local, missed all these things, I bet many of our visitors did too. Laguna Beach is much more than some great restaurants, cool hotels, and fun beaches. We have art, history, and a story to tell.”
Her discoveries led her to start Laguna Beach Walks walking tours, as a way to show visitors and locals the charm, public art, and walkability that Laguna has to offer, while also getting some exercise. She created free downloadable walking maps that can be found on her website at www.LagunaBeachWalks.com.
“Laguna Beach is like one giant outdoor museum. So many interesting things to see! Public Art, historic landmarks, coastal blooms, unique architecture, scenic ocean views,” says Naess.
On January 1, 2020, she wanted to start her quest by walking First Avenue but found out there is no First Avenue (or First Street), so she started on the street before Second Avenue, Eagle Rock Way.
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Photo by Ashley Tyus
Janelle Naess on one of her walks
She has been chronicling her journey on her Instagram account @LagunaBeachWalks, where she includes photos that she takes of quirky Laguna during her walks, as well as a map highlighting the streets that she’s walked on a particular day.
During her walks, she has come across lots of interesting things to see, such as funky mailboxes, interesting architecture, beautiful gardens, captivating art…and has met some of the homeowners along the way.
When asked what her favorite street is, she replies, “That’s like asking me which child of mine I like best. Every street in Laguna is different and unique in their own way. Each street has its own personality and interesting traits.”
Shortly after she began her journey, the coronavirus hit, and suddenly she had more time on her hands, especially since she wasn’t shuttling her three teenage kids to sporting practices and events since they had all been canceled.
“I had no idea how long this resolution would take me. I had given myself a year, but with the recent social distancing rules, I wasn’t able to travel for work or my kids’ sports,” says Naess. “I had more time on my hands to accomplish my goal at a faster pace.”
After walking all but one street in Laguna, Naess is ready for the grand finale…to walk the approximately seven miles of Pacific Coast Highway from one end of Laguna to the other. The date is set for Friday, May 29 at 9 a.m. She will begin her final walk at the entrance to town in North Laguna and end approximately three hours later at the entrance to town near Three Arch Bay.
She is inviting anyone that is interested, to join her, at your own risk. For those who can’t or don’t want to make the trek, she will be broadcasting the walk live on her Instagram for people to follow along virtually.