Parks have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up within walking distance of a park in the northwest corner of South Carolina. In the summer, I would ride my bike to the park almost daily to swim, fish, or play baseball. I distinctly remember the calmness of the park during the week or during the off season, when squirrels easily outnumbered the people in the park. The sounds of animals digging around in the leaves and birds chirping would only be interrupted by the occasional car or the sound of other kids riding their bikes or playing basketball. On weekends, these simple sounds gave way to the dozens of people swimming, camping, and playing beach volleyball, the stream of cars entering and leaving the park, and to the constant hum of boat engines on the lake.
Later, I began to seek out more natural settings to spend my leisure time. My friends and I would ride the winding back roads of Oconee County and into North Carolina looking for waterfalls and hiking trails to explore. The contrast between parks constructed with areas designed for specific actives and those designed to let visitors access the minimally disturbed wonders of nature is truly amazing. Whether the park is man-made, from the lake to the campgrounds and recreational areas, or if it is merely a path through the woods, each space has its own purpose and its own unique set of sounds.