Cheap Sightseeing Tour: Your Neighborhood: Tips For Exploring Part 2

A cheap and easy sightseeing tour idea, explore your own neighborhood like it were a new exotic location, tips on technique.

Sightseeing in Your Own Neighborhood

Walking or bicycling not only gives you more time to look closely at your neighborhood, but also the occasional opportunity to talk to your neighbors. In addition, walking or bicycling will put your legs directly in touch with the land. In a car we tend to pay attention only to man-made features. On foot we know immediately if we're walking up the slightest hill.

The lay of the land is often hidden from us. Most neighborhoods do not have mountains or rivers in or around them. But they may have been there at one time. Unknown to most residents are the natural and artificial streams flowing under the neighborhoods. Fresh water is often obtained from these sources. Dirty water is put back. Do you know where water drains from your neighborhood? Does it settle into the ground? What if the ground is too rocky? Perhaps the waste water is carried off to a nearby river or sewage plant. These natural and man-made watercourses follow the land downhill and sometimes carve it out. Find the low points and gulleys of your neighborhood and you will find the spots where water is collecting either below or above the ground. Follow the streams. Find their sources and outflow.

If you need help, get a topographic map of the area from a local library or the U.S. Geological Survey. The map will show elevations, streams, roads, buildings, and other prominent physical features. Agricultural maps go further and tell the types of soil and vegetation. But even without the maps you can examine the earth directly: Is it sandy or rocky? Light or dark? Wet or dry? The soils of your area will often tell you its history. What was your neighborhood before it was built up? An Indian burial ground? A farm? The Back Bay neighborhood of Boston and the Marina neighborhood of San Francisco were built upon dirt hauled in to fill what was once part of a bay. Perhaps your neighborhood stands upon a sliced-off hill or a filled-in valley. If you can't find any old-timers to tell you, go to the nearest library and ask for some old maps.

A good place to go to find out about your neighborhood's soils and vegetation is the nearby park. Look at the trees and shrubs that can be grown locally and talk with other strollers. The park caretaker can certainly tell you a lot about the trees and plantings. Ask him which trees were planted and which were standing before the park was built. Ask why certain kinds of trees are popular in the area. Perhaps the evergreens were planted in your neighborhood to give privacy around the houses. Perhaps some trees have been planted to help retain sandy soil. Or still others, such as eucalyptus, might have been planted to shield crops from the wind when the neighborhood was a farm.

You may find that the land in your neighborhood once bore a forest. Was it cut for timber to build the neighborhood's buildings? Or was the forest cut to clear the land for farming? Find out which crops grew successfully in your soil and test your answer by growing them in your own backyard.

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