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

Henry David Thoreau

Highlands Hammock State Park

Sebring, Florida
Sunday January 18 and Monday January 19, 2015

 

SUNDAY

 

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We leave Oscar Scherer after two two weeks stays and head northeast about 90 miles to Highlands Hammock State Park.   If you come here be careful with google maps, they want to take you in the back way and you cannot get in there.  You must come in on Rt 634 out of Sebring.

When we pull into the campground it is swamped.  Campers everywhere.  It looks like a huge hodgepodge.  Campers on top of each other.  I suspect it is like this every weekend and that it usually clears out on Sunday.  But this is a holiday weekend so we’ll have to wait until Monday for it to clear out. 

We were here for 5 days in January of 2013. I am trying to remember why we said we wanted to return . Luckily I’d learned then that you need to be in one of the sites in the back circle or in one of the sites across from the new bathroom in order to avoid the one camper right on top of the other hodge podge.

So I made a reservation for the circle.  On the circle there are several sites that say they will take a 40’ RV.  Site 42 is the best in my opinion although I wasn’t able to get that one.  We are in site 38.  Not quite as nice as 41 or 42 but much better than out in the central campground area.  

On the paved road near the Recreation Hall, sites 130-136 are pull throughs and  all nice but nothing in Highlands Hammock Campground is spacious.  Being in these sites would be better if you wish to use their restrooms as the ones nearest us have no working showers.  They are in serious need of updating.   Sweet buildings built by the CCC and if the showers worked they’d be fine.

I don’t take any pictures of the stacked up campers since it’s not something I want to remember.  But here’s the view out our front window on the edge of the circle.

 

 

MONDAY

I am actually amazed at how full the campground is since the morning temperatures are in the low 40’s this morning.  The folks in tents and pop ups are out in it trying to warm up with camp fires and breakfast.  I take some pictures out my window as I am warm and toasty inside.  Did I really do this during the many many many years we were tent campers?   Pretty sure our long 3-4 week trips were fair weather camping.

 

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By 11:00 the campground had emptied by at least half.   The far side of the circle opposite us goes from

this

to this

We have no neighbors beside us and half the campers in the circle are gone.  Only the hard sides remain.

 

After a delicious scrambled vegan breakfast we think we remember why we wanted to come back.   The trails are great.  There are 9 walking trails through the beautiful hammock and swamps.  There is also a bike trail that non mountain bikes can do.

 

 

 

We peddle our bikes out to the Hammock Road off of which most of the trailheads can be found.  Highland’s Hammock is one of Florida´s oldest parks.  It opened to the public in 1931 during the Great Depression.  It was established when local citizens promoted it as a candidate for National Park Status. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) developed additional park facilities and the beginnings of a botanical garden. There is an excellent CCC Museum that we visited last time we were here. 

Today we’re going to bike the scenic 3-mile loop drive and stop to hike a trail or two along the way.

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The large sign tells us we are entering a Florida Hammock which is a forest of broadleaf trees surrounded by pinelands and or marshes.  From our last trip here we learned there were homesteads on this land and there are remnants of their citrus trees.  We also learned, pick at your own risk, they are very bitter as they’ve returned to the wild.

 

 

 

 

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The ride is really beautiful through the hammock which isn’t as dark today as I imagine it might be on a less bright afternoon.  Not a place I think I’d want to be after dark.  The park has bears that like to frequent the dumpsters.  Instead of installing bear proof dumpsters, they have strung electric wire around them.   I’m getting the message that this park is low on funds.  We also see evidence of wild hogs.

 

 

The first trail we stop to hike is called The Young Hammock Trail.  Once we begin walking down the path, it doesn’t look very young to us.  Some pretty big trees in here.

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Can you see me back there? 

 

Not very far along the path we can feel the calm, the quiet stillness.  You want to whisper or not talk at all. The paths are fern lined under the tall palms.

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The mosses here are thick on the trees and fallen logs.  They aren’t just on the north side.    Epiphytes grow everywhere.

 

 

This one is on the trunk of the palm WAY up near the top.

 

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Epiphytes grow on sticks on the ground, on palmetto fronds, everywhere you look.

 

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At the beginning of this trail there were few pines, there are many more toward the end.  Tall pines, taking over the top of the canopy.  I would guess this signals a change in the soil or water table.  There are numbered posts along the trail but no guides.  Another victim of budget cuts I would guess.  Pretty sure there were guides here on our last visit.

After leaving the Young Hammock Trail we ride on down the road where we stop at the Cypress Swamp Trail.  This is a boardwalk through a beautiful swamp.  It’s a watery forest created by a slow moving creek whose waters rise and fall, flooding and then withdrawing.  Brown waters reflect the tall trees, the spanish moss and the clouds in the sky

 

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The boardwalk was originally built by the CCC in the 30’s and has been maintained.  All along the rails of the double rail boardwalk are commemorative plaques placed there by folks who, I assume, gave a donation to the maintenance of this trail.

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I love these swampy environs.  Without this boardwalk few people would ever see this place.

 

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The dark water reflections are magical in this area which is almost like a lake.  The water is clearly deeper here than on the other side of the open areas.

 

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There is a large bench and platform at the end of the double railed boardwalk.  From there a single rail more narrow one carries you on around through the swamp to the trail’s end.  Some folks turn around here.

 

 

This boardwalk is pretty much single file.   The habitat is quite varied along it.  Ferns, palms, multi-kneed cypress.

 

 

 

 

 

There is one step out with a bench along the narrow boardwalk.  You can stop here to just soak in the quiet or to get out of the way of someone who wants to move along at a faster pace.   When we are here, I look deep into the swamp and one of the cypress knees is white.   Do you see it?

 

 

 

 

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As we are leaving the trail this fallen log looks like a moose head with a giant set of antlers to me.  Guess I’ve been spending too much time trying to plan our summer for this year.

 

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Out in the parking lot we walk by a friend of Judy’s. 
Thought I’d include these pictures for her as
THE END.

 

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24 comments:

  1. I've camped in some pretty crowded campgrounds - mainly with my ex, our kids & their families, so we always had several sites together and some semblance of privacy. But I much prefer the campgrounds where they try to separate the sites with foliage, trees, etc. It's also why I like to travel in the off season, although as you pointed out, it can mean chilly mornings!

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  2. awwww. . .I'm thinkin' that one spot looked like a good fishin' hole. . .we love those kinds of hikes too!

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  3. We always try to visit FL SP during Midweek. Weekends and holidays are just to busy.

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  4. How wonderful to have a boardwalk to follow over the water and through the trees.

    It couldn't have been more crowded than Quartzsite.

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  5. Very warm and HUMID here today ahead of a so called cold front. Great creepy forest pics.

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  6. I've often wondered what a Florida hammock was thanks for the explanation

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  7. Almost a spiritual place to walk, such amazing beauty words can't describe it properly. Glad you took so many pictures for us to enjoy! :c)

    Quite a herd of cute little friends on your dashboard!

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  8. Beautiful reflections in the water...what a well done boardwalk. I can understand coming back for that, although I know crowded campgrounds would not be your first choice!

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  9. The trails certainly make up for the crowded campground. I'd love to get on that boardwalk.

    Given that this is a state park, and given the current administration in Florida, it's little surprise that state parks are having funding issues. I'd say hopefully that can change, but... given that the governor actually got voted back in...

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  10. We were just there a week ago, for a volunteer day. We replaced a section of boardwalk, and patch a lot of railing on the trail from the campground to the CCC Museum. Great park, and great staff and volunteers! It's hard to believe how rough that swamp environment is on any kind of building materials. The stuff we rebuilt and replaced was treated pine that was only eight years old, but rotted to the point that the floor structure actually rotted out and collapsed. Interesting stuff.

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  11. Glad the crowds left and you can enjoy the park. Your memory is just fine...those trails and boardwalk look wonderful. Now, we will have to check them out one of these days:o))

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  12. Beautiful reflections, both on the black waters and on our experience of these great trails in the hammock. Great way to get away and experience the calming influence of the natural world left alone. Love it!

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  13. I always love a boardwalk and that one looks fantastic. Will have to remember it!

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  14. I love those tall palms. Wouldn't it be great to climb to the top? Reminds me of Robinson Crusoe. :-)

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  15. Oh my! I just posted a blog and saying how much I like the rugged mountains and desert and then I see your blog and fall in love with the green land and swamps of Florida. Will I ever be satisfied. Love your photos of the Florida hammock and the swamp with its knees and moss and lilies and probably mosquitos.

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  16. Great Bumper sticker -Catherine always says I am going to cause an accident trying to pull over to see a bird.
    That is a great swamp trail.

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  17. Checking for 3-day weekends and holiday "breaks" is something I'll have to get used to when planning locations :-) Looks like 38 is a pretty good spot too. I love the Young Hammock trail where you can see the ecosystem changing naturally, and where you can get in a couple good hugs. I've not been on a boardwalk trail yet and seeing the different ones through your travels I so appreciate what a gift they are, both to the environment and her viewers. The thin trees reflecting on the pond remind me of a large birdcage......wonderful.

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  18. I never considered how difficult it is to find an appropriate spot to house a beast..... It must be difficult to see small rigs in the larger spots. Loved the board walk and the views that are available as a result. It is amazing how quickly the results of hard work return to the wild without constant updating. I'm loving the pics to an area I have never seen. Looking forward to seeing where your summer travels will take you.

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  19. Maybe I should get me one of those stickers. ;)

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  20. A wonderful boardwalk to enjoy the hammock. Love the tribute plaques on the benches.

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  21. What a beautiful walk through the hammock.

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  22. I just love the Florida swamps, especially if I'm on a boardwalk or in a kayak. So mysterious and calming. We've never been to Highlands Hammock; maybe we need to give it a try. The trails look beautiful.

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  23. Oh my goodness, we hiked there last year although we did not stay at the state park. That was also our first hike on a swamp and the trail and surroundings were equally beautiful.

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  24. Scott airboat3601@msn.comMay 30, 2017 at 3:49 PM

    Saw your pics while searching for something else. Love walking the trails of the park. The Cypress Swamp where the bridge crossed over the "lake" area is now a mudhole due to the lack of rain. water that used to flow under the boardwalk is gone. Wild pigs now root along the boardwalk. Still relaxing, and with Burn Ban in effect, there wasn't any groups our weekend and you had 80% of the sites empty Hoping for rain!!

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