Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Final Day at Highlands Hammock

Saturday January 26, 2013
Site 97 Highlands Hammock State Park
Sebring, Florida


More trails to hike

We want to hike three more trails this morning and then we’ll be starting the pack up in order to get an early start tomorrow for our drive to Big Cypress National Preserve.  You can’t reserve a site at Midway Campground so we want to make sure we are there early enough to snag one.  Although since it is Sunday, we should be fine.


Some of the trails at Highlands Hammock connect into each other or their trail heads are across the drive from each other. 
Today we take the boardwalk from the campground over to the park road and walk down to the Big Oak trail which connects  into the hickory trail.


The Hickory trail goes through  a hardwood hammock.

In addition to the  hickory, there are red maple, cabbage palm, sweet gum and Live Oaks among others.   We see a lot of hickory but the show stoppers are again the giant live oaks.


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I find my favorite spot.

From the Hickory Trail  we are able to cut over to the middle of the Richard Lieber trail.  Leiber was the father of the Indiana Parks system and is widely regarded as the a major force in helping Florida set up its park system.  At the time of his death in 1944 he was the most powerful spokesman for the conservation of natural resources.

The Lieber trail has the largest living thing in Highlands Hammock Park.  And we are off to find it.


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On the way we find a gorgeous boardwalk swamp which leads to what is now my favorite spot in the park.


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My favorite spot is the dead end of the boardwalk into this T with a bench at either end.

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I love to hike in natural settings but even more I love to spend time there.  To just sit and be.  This is one of the best spots to do that in this park.  At least at this time of year, not too many people come down the boardwalk to interrupt your solitude and if they do, they don’t stay long.  The swamp will take over your senses if you let it.


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This spot seals it.  I definitely have to come back to Highlands Hammock so that I can spend an early morning or an evening, if the mosquitoes will let me, sitting right here for a few hours.   Wish I’d discovered this spot earlier in our visit but you just never know what you will find when.


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This is the boardwalk leading in.

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On the way out we notice this “snow” in the upper branches of the live oak.  Or at least the spanish moss looks like snow to us from this angle.  Not quite so much in this picture.

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Another one of those “great ideas”.


We’ve come into the Lieber trail in the middle so we we go back out to see the trial head.  And that’s where we find the prize.

The oldest living thing in the park is this Live Oak.

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It seems to be  living on in spite of us and our “help”.
Take a look at this major limb which has fallen down.

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In the 1930’s, in an attempt to “help” the old growth live oaks, the park developed a plan to  see if filling the hollowed out cores with steel reinforced concrete would save the trees and extend their lives.   They went up the hollow core of the tree and even out into the giant limbs 20 or more feet filling them with this concrete/steel rebar. 


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I think to myself, how in the world could anyone have thought that such limbs would not be too heavy for the tree to support.  I am pretty amazed at what seems exceptionally stupid to me.  I think they failed to realize that although concrete and steel are very strong and might have stood alone, it doesn’t flex in the wind like a tree can.  So over time, the concrete cracked and fell under its own weight.   What we don’t know is how long the trees would have stood without the reinforcement.


Here you can see the tree bark and the concrete “core”.

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Bark in lower right, concrete with terracotta pipe above it.


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The tree still manages to live on although the “treated” limbs have fallen off. 

The first tree we saw here that was “1000 years old” (shown in this post) had this same process.  Did that hasten its death?   This sure doesn’t seem like a bright idea today.   And that’s only 60 years later.  How many of our “fixes” have turned out to be similarly foolish?  Kudzu and draining wetlands come to mind. 


Why do we have to meddle in nature’s plan?  She seems to do very fine without us and our introduced species and ideas.


Me and the Richard Lieber Oak.  I definitely admire its tenacity.

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Apparently we have learned not to try to keep things the same.


From here we head on down the road to the Young Hammock Trail.


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This trail begins in the hardwood hammock and moves into areas with large pines.  The pines are taller than the hardwoods so it seems that they will live on but all of their progeny will be cut out with no sunlight to grow up into.   And succession will succeed.  What will fire do to alter all of this?   Only nature knows for sure.


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These are really big majestic pines.  Everything seems to grow taller in their presence in the race to the sun.


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Mark it down as one to return to.

Sadly this is the end of our trail walking in Highlands Hammock.  I have really enjoyed this park and can easily see now why it is so popular.  My only suggestion would be that they put a few more benches with backs for contemplation and meditation on these lovely trails so that folks will not just walk on but can sit a spell if they’d like to.

Back down the park road we do a few more of the exercise stops.  Now here’s a really easy one.  A platform with a picture of touch your toes and stay.

Then it’s back to Winnona to get packin’


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  1. fascinating, Sherry. I think you know my love of trees and nature. those gorgeous gorgeous trees. I'm right there with you on letting nature do its thing... just don't understand all the interference ~ especially building stuff where nature doesn't want you to!

    The swamp? I love what you said ... about it taking over your senses if you let it. never thought much about swamps. never thought much about swamps with those gorgeous trees. I believe I might need to experience this.

    I can sit and breathe in nature till the cows come home....

    love your pictures AND your favorite spot ;)

  2. Yep, man has done some pretty dumb things in the way of 'helping' nature. Just hope we learn by our mistakes.

  3. That is a lovely park. We stayed there many years ago. Since you mentioned it, how are the mosquitoes there this time of year? Bugs and humidity are one reason we haven't had the desire to spend the winter in FL.

  4. Lots of California live oak trees here, and they are beautiful. There is a special one in my parents back yard, which I'm sure is over 100 years old.

  5. I love sitting quietly and hanging out in nature. You never know when birds will start to come around or whether other wildlife will check you out.

    Bob, on the other hand, has ADD/ADHD and hates sitting still for more than a couple of minutes...not exactly conducive to sitting and enjoying the scenery. Oh, well. It is what it is.

  6. Even though putting concrete into a tree doesn't seem to be the smartest idea, at least they were trying. I also hate all the things man has done to damage the environment. Right now, we're unhappy that they are doing "prescribed" burns at the prairie. They used to be called "controlled" until too many went out of control. Yes, they may ultimately help the prairie, but I feel for all the animals in the way of the fire.

    Oh well.

    Yes, that looked like a good place for you to spend some early morning time...all you needed was a cup of coffee! LOL

    Wondering if you got a site at Midway??

  7. I totally agree with you. Mother Nature knows best and has done fine without any of man's help. While I can appreciate the try to help the tree, and the spirit in which it was undertaken, it sure wasn't thought through very well.

    Hopefully the tree lives on for many more hundreds of years, despite man's "help".

    I enjoy sitting and taking in nature's beauty, too. Glad to be able to do it more often now that we've retired.

  8. All the trees in the pictures are so impressive - stretching tall and living such long lives. They make humans seem so small and their lives so short! Trying to strengthen a tree with concrete seems like someone did not think that idea all the way through...doesn't sound very helpful to me... Love your 'favorite spot' - it's so you :)

  9. Wonderful hikes...need to check that park out. I just love the Live Oaks:o)) Can't wait to see how you make out at Midway. We are hoping to snag a site for a few days after Flamingo....Good Luck!!!

  10. What a beautiful park. Thank you for sharing your favorite spot with us. I like the idea of the benches with backs. There is a boardwalk at one of the beaches we like here in Oregon and I like it for that very reason. I can sit and just look. Sometimes I let my kite out and sit there and watch it fly. And just look at you touching your toes. I'm lucky to reach my knees!!! Good for you

  11. why is it always "man" who destroys "mother nature" - funny how that is...

  12. Every time we mess with nature we just mess it up. Yet those magnificent trees live on. I'm going to miss this park but have a feeling you'll take us to anothr beautiful place.

  13. You said: "...but you just never know what you will find when."
    And isn't that what our gypsy lifestyle is all about? The surprises.

    Someday Man will learn to let Mother Nature do her thing ... probably won't happen in my lifetime, though.

  14. For some reason publish wouldn't publish. Grrrrr
    Thank you for the hike. And yes when will man learn to leave mother nature alone. she has been here doing her job longer than we have been here.

  15. Seems crazy to put concrete into trees- I realize they were trying to "save " them, but death is part of the deal. We need to let nature take its course and realize that no matter what we do to the planet, nature will be just fine. We may not be able to live here but nature will ensure life adapts and continues to thrive.

  16. I'm just an Iowa farm boy at heart and would never have thought of willingly walking into a swamp, let alone take a guided tour through one. However, my more adventurous daughter took a night bike tour through the Everglades when she was six or seven months pregnant, because “that was when all the reptiles were out.”
    Great pictures, as usual.


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