Friday February 5-Sunday February 7, 2016 Most Recent Posts:
Highlands Hammock State Park Campground Kayaking the Myakka River
Sebring, Florida Back to Back Biking – Bird Walk and The Legacy Trail
The most important thing in this post is to wish our daughter Carrie
H A P P Y B I R T H D A Y !!
I asked her for a recent picture of her. She had a couple taken on her birthday. Here is what she sent. Don’t they look happy and doesn’t she look great!
Happy Happy Birthday Carrie!
Only 100 days until the birth of our first granddaughter Celia Claire!!
Yes this is the same couple whose wedding we were celebrating last May and whose first child will be born this May.
When you are 35 and 36, you don’t waste any time. LOL!!
I’ll get back to what we did on Sunday Carrie’s February 7th birthday but first
On Friday, our last day at Myakka, we pile into Nancy and Bill’s truck for a trip to W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam where friends Terri and Mike and Laura and Bruce are work camping for another month.
Laura and Bruce have just gotten a new 42’ Class A and it’s a beauty. We take the tour and then sit around chatting about anything and everything including how you always know people as either him and her or she and he. For instance, Mike and Terri. That’s what everyone but Terri’s family calls them. It’s Bruce and Laura, not Laura and Bruce, Sherry and David, not David and Sherry. Bet you could list a number of couples you know who have that same situation.
After such weighty conversation among full time RVing friends, it’s time for lunch. Laura has picked out the Olga Mall in downtown Olga for lunch at the Antiques and Deli. Well I don’t think that’s what it’s actually called but that’s what they sell.
The town is called Olga and this is the mall. They are located at the corner of Olga and Olga in Olga Florida. Seriously that’s what they give as their address. From what I can see, they may be the town of Olga. Although I’m told 1942 people had an Olga address in 2014.
David is the doorman as we all head inside.
It’s definitely a combination Deli/Antique shop with fun signs.
Everyone ponders the sandwich choices and most end up with the same thing. Only Terri bucks the gyro trend and orders a turkey wrap.
The tables and chairs are early 20th century oak but only seat 4 so we have to split up into teams unfortunately. Nancy and Bill sit with Bruce and Laura.
David and I enjoy lunching with Mike and Terri.
The proprietress makes a delicious sandwich. So good in fact, I take no pictures of it since it’s gone before I think about that. So if you are ever in Olga, stop by and take a look around. Thanks Laura for a nice lunch spot. It was great seeing you four again.
Today is moving day. We drive 70 miles of backroads mostly through orange groves I’m pleased to say and arrive at Highlands Hammock State Park near Sebring Florida around 1:00. Of course it starts raining as soon as we arrive.
Our drive is on very nice flat straight back roads. No shoulder but lined with orange trees.
Too bad we couldn’t stop and pick some. I didn’t see one pick your own stand or farm stand along the way unfortunately.
Yup, more rain! What a surprise – LOL!
Because it rains all night long, the pictures below were taken the next day.
The park opened in 1931. It was created by local citizens concerned that the hammock was about to be turned into agricultural lands. They promoted it as a candidate for National Park status and although that never happened, it did become one of the four original Florida State parks when they system was founded in 1935. It was largely constructed by the CCC. The Florida Civilian Conservation Corps museum is here and it is excellent. The largest museum dedicated to the CCC in the state.
The park consists of 9000 acres on a slight plateau so thankfully the grounds are not flooded though the water is high. It contains a true virgin forest with some of the largest trees we have ever seen and certainly the largest in this state. One is reputed to be over 1000 years old and one has a girth of over 36’. There are elevated boardwalks through some of the most beautiful cypress swamp I’ve ever seen. From this description, you can see why we love it here.
The park has a number of trails, all of them short but connectable for longer hikes. There is great biking here as well.
Usually we take a site in the small back circle but I couldn’t get the one I wanted there so I thought I had reserved one of the 5 paved sites but when we arrive I find I am one site off. We are right next to the last paved site. Oh well, au natural is more our style anyway. There are large live oaks and provide wonderful shade in some sections of the primarily pine woods campground.
As you can see, the campground roads are level, wide and smooth. The trees are big and beautiful. One caution, the sites are in some places a bit helter skelter and the hook ups are often at the rear of a long site. Some sites are really level, some not. We have one of the not so much and put Winnona’s back wheels on our horse mats in order to avoid dangling tires. The park has a few sites that can accomodate up to a 45’ rig which is pretty amazing in a state park in my experience.
We get good Verizon service both phone and data.
It rains steadily all night but the sandy soil soaks it all up and there are no puddles in the campground. Very nice!
When we look out our window this morning David declares that the kitty out for a walk across the road from us looks exactly like his family’s childhood cat. Carrie loves kitties so I include this picture of the Beauregard look alike for her and for David’s family if they are reading.
Today is Carrie’s birthday and I call her in the morning to wish her Happy Birthday! Actually we talk to her twice today both long fun calls. She has a great day planned and I know she’ll have a wonderful time. Both the presents and the card we sent arrived on time so that’s great too.
The temperatures don’t get over 50 until around noon. David is having his crash day and doesn’t feel like doing anything so I hop on my bike to take a look around the park.
First I go over to what was the Highlands Inn. It is sadly no longer a a restaurant, nor does it have Wild Orange ice cream or milkshakes. I am told by the volunteer inside that no vender could make a go of it with only enough customers during the winter months. Now it is used only on week-ends with a volunteer to attend natural history exhibits. I’m more disappointed than I thought I would be.
There are numerous exhibits of the local fauna. Skulls and skins among other things.
But the most amazing thing today is the Gopher Tortoise shell. Well he probably wasn’t a gopher tortoise since he lived during the age of the Mastedons and was nearly as big as our dinnette table.
The shell was unearthed in Highlands Hammock in the 30’s when the park was being built. Luckily archelogists were called in after some mastedon bones were also discovered and left in the air they disintigrated. They carefully excavated and preserved as they went. It is one of the most complete speciments of its kind in existence. The species became extinct at the end of the last ice age around 10,000 years ago.
After a wonderful conversation with the kindred spirit who enthusiastically shares her natural history knowledge, I go across to the CCC Museum. The CCC Boy statue stands proundly on the left side.
This really is a wonderful museum and a must see. This map has a pin for every CCC camp in the country. Such an amazing program. So beloved by the boys who served and the families who benefitted.
From there I bike down the park road toward my destination which is at the far end of the park.
On the way I stop to admire this horse drawn grader. It’s placed across the road from what was the homestead of the pioneer who may well have used one.
In 1831, Jonathan Skipper and his wife Leticia settled in the forest then known as Hooker’s Hammock. They cleared the land, no small task, and planted orange trees and built livestock holding pens. They raised their 10 children here and they in turn theirs. This is the Skipper family in 1903.
Behind my bike is the original piece of land that held their homestead.
From there I bike on down the park road further through the hammock. My destination is at the farthest point on the park drive so I will bike the entire loop going to and from. It’s only 3 miles but it’s a wonderful ride.
I’m bound for the Cypress Swamp Trail. I reallly do love all of Highland Hammock’s Trails. They are beautiful. But this is my favorite and it is the first one I want to see this visit.
Last time we were here I had a fantastic encounter with a barred owl. He was my Morning Blessing.
I’m playing around with my camera and black and white, black and white with a single color and full color.
The trail starts off with a wide boardwalk that snakes and bends through the swamp.
The still black waters make for dizzying reflections.
There is a nice bench and standing area just before the boardwalk turns into a narrow one rail walkway over the water.
The high temperature is only going up to 60 today and a predicted 38 tonight, so I imagine the gators are prefering a sunnier spot for hanging out than the Cypress Swamp. I don’t see any waders either other than these two Ibis. I’m surprised to see these two given how high the water is.
Still the swamp is magical. Without the boardwalk I would never be able to see into the interior of this swamp. In most places, the cypress knees are far too numerous to kayak in.
At the head of the single boardwalk I come to a large wide area with a long bench for sitting and contemplating what I see.
After that rest area, the rest of the trail is on the single rail boardwalk back to the parking lot. Ferns and Cypress line the way.
I suspect there others who are not so happy with how the palms are growing out over the walkway but I really love the feel of being closed in by the swamp. You can see the boardwalk ends in a short sandy trail which leads back to the parking area.
When I reach my bike, the Tram Tour is going by. For those who aren’t able to go on a ranger led hike and want to find out about the history and trails in the park, the Tram is a great way to do it. The Tram also goes places it is more difficult for bikes to and would be long hikes for many.
Time for me to get pedaling. I’m making soup for dinner.
Seems like the right thing as the temperatures drop to 38 degrees.