From Concrete to the Jungle: Exploring Your City’s Open Spaces!

coronoa heights park

By Zoë Polk

As an urban dweller, I often look at maps of my city. Sometimes I’m looking at a map to find the fastest way home from work. A lot of times,  I’m using  a map to identify the best route to get out of the city and to the campground, hiking trail and/or swimming spot that I’ve been daydreaming about all week. Most recently, I pulled out a city map and asked “How can I turn my weekly trip to my neighborhood farmers’ market into an adventure?” My answer was a 5 mile hike that spanned four of San Francisco’s beautiful natural spaces, and an expedition that I was delighted to share with 25 other Outdoor Afros.

View from the Summit of Corona Heights

View from the Summit of Corona Heights

San Francisco, like many cities, has numerous beautiful natural parks scattered throughout.  For many of us nature lovers, those small green squares on the map represent places for rejuvenation,  refuge, recreation and relaxation. At first glance those the green spaces can appear disconnected and isolated from one another, each meriting its own day trip. But with a little creativity, a little planning and a craving for adventure, you can create a route that connects several parks and connects YOU to nature.

The parks we visited on Sunday each offered a unique experience and challenge. We started our morning with a brisk climb to Corona Heights Park.  Situated at the top some of San Francisco’s  infamously steep streets, our visit here got our hearts pumping! At the craggy summit, we were rewarded with beautiful views of Twin Peaks and downtown San Francisco.

From Corona Heights, we traveled to Tank Hill Park, a smaller green space, named for the drinking water tank which was once located there.

Tank Hill

Tank Hill

 Along the 650 climb to its peak, we marveled at the dozens of blackberry brambles and discussed the fruits we were excited to buy at the farmers. market  Tank Hill also offered our first view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean.

Before we entered Mt. Sutro Open Space Reserve, I introduced the park as my favorite jungle within the city. With its towering trees, large green ferns, and vibrant animal life, including over 40 species of birds flying overhead, Mt. Sutro rewards many urban hikers.  Staying on the marked trails, we covered much of the 80 acre park. On rare moments, we’d see a structure, a fellow hiking group, and breaks in the trees, but we spent much of the hike enthralled by a surprising and majestic wilderness.

At Mt. Sutro’ s Summit,hike in sutro we paused to reflect on the notion of discovery. Many Outdoor Afros observed they had discovered new flowers, new views of the city and new knowledge of  green space preservation.Others reflected on discovering new parts of themselves, including strong physical endurance and heightened curiosities about urban parks.

I reflected that I had recently discovered that Maya Angelou adored her youth in San Francisco and as San Francisco’s first Black female Cable Car driver, used maps to navigate the city that she loved.  It inspired me to reread  “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and put her poetic words to my own feelings and adventures in my city.  In that spirit of discovery, I shared the following passage from Ms. Angelou’s famous work:

“To San Franciscans “the City That Knows Hows” was the Bay, the fog…
the Sunset District and so on and so forth and so white. To me, a
thirteen year old Black girl stalled by the south and Southern Black
life style, the city was a state of beauty and a state of freedom. The
fog wasn’t simply the steamy vapors off the bay caught and penned in
by hills, but a soft breath of anonymity that shrouded and cushioned
the bashful traveler. I became dauntless and free of fears,
intoxicated by the physical fact of San Francisco. Safe in my
protective arrogance. I was certain that no one loved her as
impartially as I.

Reading aloud this passage encouraged us to view the morning fog in a new light. And it reminded us that we can honor our African American treasures, like Ms. Angelou, by cherishing our own connections to nature.

Resting at the Farmers Market

Resting at the Farmers Market

As we descended down Mt. Sutro, we took in the beautiful radiant sights of the Inner Sunset Farmers Market, including bright red strawberries, juicy peaches, bold sunflowers and dahlias and plump blueberries.

Before traversing, Duboce Park, our fourth and final park of the day, many of us stocked up for the week, buying fruits for Sunday afternoon pie and greens for Sunday night dinner.  As we headed back to our starting point via public transit, we discussed our adventure and the sumptuous fresh bounty which filled our reusable bags.  And we all bonded over our joy and appreciation of the city’s green spaces.


Check out the map of our route below to try our hike. Not a San Franciscan Urban Dweller? Explore your local parks and farmers markets and share your adventure with Outdoor Afro!

Map of our route

Map of our route

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