Image via Nature Find
I grew up in a small California town in the hills of northern Santa Barbara County, surrounded by oak trees and tons of open space where it didn't take much of a drive to get well away from people and into the nooks and crannies of wild places. So last year when I moved to San Francisco, it was quite a surprise to see how long I could go without being around much of anything "natural" other than people, pigeons and the trees lining the streets. For us city dwellers who want to seek out the natural spaces nearby, there's a great online tool from the Natural Wildlife Foundation - Nature Find. Nature Find is super easy to use. Just plug in your zip code and what types of natural spaces you are seeking (city parks? Nature preserves? Hiking trails?) and hit "submit." Up pops your map of where to find these spots in your area.
Studies have shown the health benefits of being out where you can't hear the hum of traffic, and can smell dirt that is actual fertile soil and not grime from the streets. On the one hand, what does it say about our urban planning if we need online maps to be able to find pieces of nature from our city apartments? On the other hand, thank goodness for a tool that helps us find patches of nature we might not even know about that we can go and enjoy. While I need to nag friends with cars to get me out to most of the surrounding hiking spots in San Francisco, it is well worth taking the drive in order to take in some nature.