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

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My Favorite Spot at Highlands Hammock

Tuesday January 20, 2015
Highlands Hammock State Park
Sebring, Florida



Today is David’s first of his now weekly blood draws on this new treatment.  He has to drive to Sebring for it this morning, about 8 miles.  He also has to stop at Walmart to pick up some antifreeze since our just barely 6 month old heater control valve went out on the drive to the park on Sunday.  Because of the trouble this caused us in July when this one was put in to replace another one that leaked, I insisted that we have a spare one with us.  So we had one with us that David can put on later today.  But all the coolant had leaked out by then and he didn’t have enough antifreeze to refill it.



While he was off having such fun, I remembered that Highlands Hammock has a spot I absolutely love so today I want to find it.

We figured out pretty quickly yesterday that the reason we wanted to come back to this sort of sketchy campground was that the trails and the big live oaks on them are magnificent.  

In the campground’s defense, there are some perfectly fine sites and during the week it is heavenly.  Even on Saturday night it was not noisy, just crowded.  People were sitting out around campfires in groups talking and the atmosphere really was one of the old fashioned tent camping experience.

Anyway, back to today.   I leave Winnona to look after things and take the boardwalk that goes from the far end of the campground road over to the CCC Museum.  I didn’t stop at the museum this time but walked on down the road past a swamp filled with the yellow flowers of bladderwort.




Bladderworts are true free floaters without roots.  They are only about 8 inches tall and have flowers on erect stems above the water. Notice the 5 prongs on which they sit.  Underwater the leaf branches or petioles are fleshy and inflated with air which allows them to float. Bladderworts are unique.  Their underwater leaves have small oval “bladders” that trap and digest small aquatic creatures like mosquito larvae.  Hooray!  And besides their little yellow flowers are very cheery on this rather cloudless gray day.

I could have biked to the trail heads like we did yesterday but I want to hike.  More steps though less aerobic once I get on the trails.  I do hot foot it down the road though to the Big Oak Trail where I find this boardwalk and some very big live oaks.



Can you see me?  That bright flat gray sky is giving me fits with the lighting.  But more importantly can you see the size of this tree or at least the base?  The crown is a hundred feet up there.




I actually do not take pictures of them all but I am amazed that this tree is still alive.  It looks pretty big here but look at the picture with me in it.  Looks even bigger doesn’t it?  That’s more what I saw.  I just can’t get over it, the size of these trees and the breadth of their canopy.




I’m in heaven.  The natural world is just fantastic if left to its own devices.  I slow way down and notice not only the big trees, the deep jungle like environment but the little things on the ground too.  Like this shelf fungus whose colors are beautiful when you get a very close look







After weaving around from the Big Oak to the Hickory trails I finally reached my destination or at least the trail on which I will find my destination.  This is the Richard Lieber memorial trail named for the man who helped to design many of the very first state parks around the country.  He was from Indiana and started there.   The tree right behind the sign is thought to be the oldest live oak in the park.  It isn’t the biggest and it has been through a lot of shennanigans over the years with tree “experts” trying to extend its life by pouring concrete in the limbs and using rebar which of course was so heavy they broke like the one lying on the ground beside the tree.  In spite of all this, there is healthy new growth growing off to the top left in this picture.  Marvelous!


This will give you an idea of the size of the base of the tree above.   BIG live oaks.



This trail takes me into the swamp.  Pretty far into the swamp.



If you look into the swamp waters, the reflections can be quite disorienting.



I love it.  It feels like another world.   Which way is up?


After a couple of turns, I come to the dead end.  This double seated T as far out into the swamp as you can get.




It’s quiet here.  I sit for a long time.  Some of it with my eyes closed.  I hear the wind rustle.  I hear the birds.  An airplane of course.  I don’t think there is anywhere at least in this country where you won’t hear an airplane.



I stay a long time.  It’s like a dream world.  Away from everything familiar.  From all the things I should be doing or could be doing.  Away from things that break, health that’s shaky, plans that need to be made.  Just silence.




and the call of the red bellied woodpecker.



Eventually I realize that I’ve been gone a long time and I’m getting hungry.  When I stand up I feel like I’m in slow motion.  I walk that way down the boardwalk back to the road.  Along the way I notice all the ways the trees have found to lift themselves out of the water but still stay in the swamp.  Like these two palms, ingenious.



David is back by the time I return and working on the control valve replacement.  A little palm warbler (right Judy?) hops up on the picnic table but thinks better of it when he sees me.  He doesn’t fly far so I get these pictures of him.  Very fine ending to my hike to my favorite spot.  It won’t be the last time I go there during our stay here. 


  1. I love swamps. The sounds, the smells, the light. Thank you.

  2. Wonderful to be able to enjoy nature without any human noise, lucky you. Thanks for the story and pics.

  3. Definitely see why you are back at this park, some great hikes there.

  4. We took a drive to New Port Richey yesterday to see a Clyde Butcher Exhibit. One of the photos was from Highland Hammock.

    No airplane noise in Blairsville. Occasionally, we would see one far overhead, but too high up to hear. In fact when we first got back to Tampa and heard our first plane, we were kind of surprised and then realized we hadn't heard one for months. Kind of like after 9-11.

    Thought of you guys yesterday when we ate at Sweet Tomatos. Have you ever been? David would like the all you can eat and you'd like the healthy salads and veggies.

  5. The engineering feats of Mother Nature - from tiny larvae-eating floating flowers to towering structures - are so fascinating. Having never seen her swamp series, I especially enjoy these hikes with your wonderful photos. While David was taking care of his health needs, you were taking care of yours :-) And I suppose Winnona also got a bit of healing done as well :-)))))

  6. Flowers in January, it just amazes me! I was hoping I'd see some in the Smokies in February but a glance through the wildflower guide says they all start in March.

  7. We really enjoyed the boardwalks that took us in the swamps in Florida. It was always so quiet and peaceful. Nice pictures..

  8. We need more bladderworts in this world to lessen the skeeter pests! Never knew about this plant. Once again, you have taught me about another of nature's wonders. :c)

  9. I could use a quiet stroll through the swamp right about now. Thanks.

  10. I really appreciate the way you slow down to be immersed in Nature. I can feel the peace and healing when I read your words and look at your photos.

  11. Back in sticks and bricks days, each summer, we put bladderworts in our ponds that I built. They were beautiful. Thanks for bringing back a good memory.

  12. While a swamp wouldn't be my first choice as a place to explore, your account of it and the photos are certainly intriguing and I can see how peaceful it could be. I love the woodpecker!

  13. It certainly does feel like a whole different world there.

  14. Thanks for taking us into the beautiful swamp. It is amazing to just sit and listen. Nature does know how to do things right if we just leave it alone. Just look, listen and don't mess with Mother Nature...she has created so many wonders for us!!!

  15. Sherry you have answered our question as to why there were concrete on that oak tree! The mystery is over. We also did enjoy hiking the trails there and yes those oak trees are really huge and your being in it gave a better perspective.
    The water reflections were really disconcerting and I'd say this was one of the beautiful trails we hiked in FL and thank you for taking me back.

  16. Truly some ole ents surviving here. And what a marvelous place to just BE.

  17. Nice. We are planning to come to Myakka for a visit Friday - Jan 30. Hope the stars align so we can get a visit in with you guys and Bill and Nancy.

  18. Beautifully written blog - you really transport us into that world and you can sense the calm it brings you; I am very glad you found the reason you went back to that park!! I love the reflections and the timelessness back in those swamps - it's mysterious and removed from the craziness that is life in our modern world.

  19. Love those really big trees and the people who had the foresight to preserve the area from development! So glad someone thought to put in all these boardwalks so we could experience the swamp without walking in it! Wonderfully peaceful place!


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