“I don’t know of any other city where you can walk through so many culturally diverse neighborhoods, and you’re never out of sight of the wild hills. Nature is very close here.”
~ Gary Snyder (poet)
From the Marin Headlands eastward to the top of Wildcat Canyon — from Mount Tamalpais southward to San Bruno Mountain State Park — you can be under a sky of Red-tailed Hawks riding thermals, with wildflowers at your feet, and still feel the pulse of San Francisco. Of the places I’ve lived, there is no other city so enmeshed with its surrounding wilderness. There are few urban areas that retain such huge and numerous tracts of feral space within a developer’s reach.
As Richard Walker points out in The Country in the City, our green space was fought over, acre by acre — from John Muir’s time, through the activist battles of the 1960s — then into this century, with today’s clear and present efforts to salvage and reclaim. Walker’s book begs for a separate blog post, one forthcoming when I can do this subject justice. In the meantime, link out here for an overview of The Country in the City from University of Washington Press.
To understand what it took to create the greenbelt that is the Bay Area, is to cherish every trail and hillside left unadorned by roof tile and cul-de-sac.
For me, this photo, even with its imperfect atmospheric hues, represents paradise. Nature in the city, the city in nature. No doubt. I shot this coming across the Coyote Ridge and Miwok trails in the Tennessee Valley area of Marin Headlands.
This map of the Marin Headlands shows the location of those trails.
Watch this short video from the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy for a nightmarish view of what the Marin Headlands could have looked like. (It’s nightmarish when you know the splendor that is now a National Park.) I first saw this ad when it aired during breaks in the Ken Burns National Parks series.