Bring the outdoors in

A list of digital ways to appreciate nature

We hated to do it, but our properties have closed to public access because of COVID-19.

To lose a chance to engage with nature, and with one another, can feel like the valve to something vital has been shut off. While nature accepts no substitutes, here are some glimpses, previews, and cheats to bring the outdoors in during your time at home.

 Take a virtual trip:

•  Google Arts and Culture offers online exhibits for learning and virtual tours of national parks for exploring.
•  Parktracks, offered by the National Parks Service, plays audio from different national parks
•  Cities and Memory’s Sound Project has an extensive collection of natural soundscapes.

Dip from the “streams” that run through your home:

•  Nature documentaries abound on streaming services. Netflix hosts Attenborough’s Nature, Hulu has The Cove, and documentaries from earlier decades are a YouTube search away. If watching nature programs helps to calm prisoners in solitary confinement, it can help us too.

Learn to use a nature identification app:

Having birds around eases loneliness; recognizing the same dark-eyed junco from yesterday feels like seeing a friend.

•  Check out Merlin from the Cornell Ornithology Lab and their user-generated eBird, the largest biodiversity citizen science project in the world.
•  Garden Compass identifies plants and bugs and assesses plant health.
•  iNaturalist is a popular, general nature app.
•  Or simply learn all the bird calls in this helpful song.

Research and plan an outdoor trip:

•  With COVID-19, the virtues of being overly prepared are clear. Use this time to go deep on research: read travel blogs, local histories, and land surveys of a natural area on your wish list.
•  Consider picking a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail and learn everything you can about the route. Use the Pacific Crest Association’s extensive Google Earth trail maps to find landmarks you resolve to see when this is all over.
•  Learn about the Oaks of California , co-authored by one of our very own docents, Pamela Muick.

If you have any tips on entertaining ways to bring the outside in, please email them to He will keep a running tab and share them on social media. 

We’re all in this together.

Praying mantis photo by Aleta George.