By Megan Churchill
An oak tree standing at the center of a meadow, its branches extending over tall weeds rippling and bending in the wind. Oak leaves rustling, the sound amplifying and quieting as the wind quickens and slows. A brilliant sunrise: A combination of shades that looks like a watercolor paintbrush was dragged across the sky.
Scenes in nature can be inadequately described in words because of their depth. St. Augustine has multiple parks and beaches close by where you can go to experience them.
So, what are some favorite local natural spots for Flagler College students:
“I like to go to Vilano Beach because the waves are awesome to play in,” said Flagler College junior Audrey Simmons. She said the waves at Vilano are bigger than beaches in her home state of New Hampshire. She loves the raw beauty of Vilano beach and collecting shark teeth.
Vilano beach is known for its shark teeth, as well as being an excellent place for surfing as a result of the strong current from its location near the inlet.
Just North of Vilano Beach is The Guana Reserve State Park. This place is home to various wildlife and offers bike and kayak rentals.
“My favorite natural space in St. Augustine has to be the Guana Reserve,” said Flagler College sophomore Grace Gearhart. “One of my favorite hobbies to do is shark tooth hunt, and I have a good collection going.”
Gearhart said going to Guana allows for people to step back from the touristy parts of downtown St. Augustine.
The Guana Reserve is located past Vilano Beach and 8 miles North of the Francis and Mary Usina Bridge.
Flagler College junior, Kiley Keller said her favorite natural space in St. Augustine is the Castillo de San Marcos fort. The history of the Castillo, and the area surrounding it, are two reasons why she enjoys spending time at this place.
Spending time in nature is enjoyable for the beauty of flowering trees and bright sunsets, but it also effectively changes the chemicals in our brains. “Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical well-being, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones,” writes former University of Minnesota Professor, Louise Delegran.
As well as reducing stress, spending time in nature increases happiness.
“You can boost your mood just by walking in nature, even in urban nature. And the sense of connection you have with the natural world seems to contribute to happiness even when you’re not physically immersed in nature,” said psychologist Lisa Nisbet, in an article published by The American Psychological Association.