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

Henry David Thoreau

Big Cypress Swamp

Monday January 28, 2013
Site 16 Midway Campground
Big Cypress National Preserve



No problem getting a site.

We leave Highlands Hammock about 9:45 Sunday morning and pull in to Midway at the perfect time, just after the noon check out time.   There are several spaces available and after taking on water, we get ourselves set up in site 16.  We have electricity and the dump station is right here so we are all set.


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Sunday afternoon, after lunch,  we head over to the Oasis Visitor Center about 2 miles away.

  We check  out all the hikes and paddles and ranger talks that they offer. David asks lots of questions.  We watch the film, and enjoy the gators and birds in the canal outside the visitor center.

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I love looking at alligator details. 

Sometimes I think my skin is beginning to look like this. 
Someone needs a manicure.  Or is it pedicure?


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There are so many gators and I think they are so cool.
Heads Up!

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Grandma, what beautiful teeth you have.

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Hey big boy, are you smiling at me??

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Ha, ha my pretty and your little dog too!

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There is a down side in Big Cypress.

I had a terrible time trying to update the pictures on Where is Winnona and the Duckie View.  I spent most of the evening trying to make that happen.
Both internet and phone are sketchy here.  Especially after dark which is when I do most of my blog things.  So I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to read others’ blogs or post my own for the next almost 3 weeks.  When we leave here in one week, we go even further away from civilization down into the bottom of the Everglades at Flamingo.
So if you don’t hear from me.  It’s my internet problem.  Crossing my fingers I’ll be able to get some posts out or I’ll sure be mighty backed up when we surface again.


But, it’s a Gorgeous night here in site 16.

The high today is 82 and the low 63.
A few mosquitoes find us after the sun goes down and force us inside but not before I get a picture of the sky.
Mosquitoes in January!


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Hiking IN the swamp


This morning I call bright and early to see if we can get 2 spots on the Wet and Wild Swamp Walk at 9:00.  SCORE!   We also snag the last two spots on the Saturday Heart of the Swamp Canoe trip.  Amazingly the Wednesday trip was completely full.

Luckily we are quite near the Oasis Visitor Center so we have no trouble getting on our gear and arriving in time.  Gear is, long pants and tie shoes both of which you are willing to get wet and muddy.   And boy did we.


Ryan our Ranger gave us a preview of where we would be going.

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We started right out in the muck.

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And then in a little bit of swamp water.

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And then deeper water.


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You can see that this is actually the low water time of year by looking at the water marks on this cypress.  Wonder what  this hike is like in the spring!  Sure wouldn’t want to come in the summer though.  I think the bugs would carry me away.  Actually, they only do this hike from December to April.


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A nearly knee deep discussion of bromeliads, orchids and other swamp plants.


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All the bromeliads on the cypress look like nests in the trees.
Bromeliads are air plants and don’t hurt the trees.

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Will I end up swimming?

Being the shortest one on the hike, I have the highest water marks!
But it is really wonderful being out here in the middle of the swamp.
I’m loving it!!


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We are stop to talk about this gator hole.

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One of its residents notices us but seems to be more worried that we’ll see him than we are that he’ll see us.

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Ibis and other birds fly pell mell in and around this swamp.  They must have radar to be able to get around so well in such close quarters.
You never see them run into limbs even at those speeds.


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This is  SERIOUS fun!!

It really is a fabulous hike that we would definitely do again and again and recommend HIGHLY to any of you who are near Oasis Visitor Center.
BUT when you finish  you do have to clean up.  I do the pant legs and socks.  David does the shoes.


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Back home, we have three resident pond dwellers.

After dinner I go out to see the sun set and find one of the pond’s resident alligators swimming toward the shore.

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Great skies end a terrific day. 

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We cap it all off with a full moon.  Full moon was Saturday.  So this isn’t really THE full moon but close enough and beautiful.

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Another day to remember. 

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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