Monday, December 7, 2015

Highlands Hammock State Park, Sebring, Florida

Today, we are leaving Highlands Hammock in Sebring after five nights there.  It was a fabulous park with nice campsites and decent bathrooms with great showers (always a plus!).  And there were a variety of trails to walk.  We also visited a historic museum dedicated to the Civilian Conservation Corps, created by FDR as part of the New Deal.  This corps was comprised of young men out of work due to the Great Depression.  Their six month commitment allowed them to earn an income while clearing the forest to build the museum, barracks, roads, and other structures.

We learned, on a tram tour of the park, that a hammock is a mixed hardwood forest.  There are cypress swamps, wet prairies, and pineland flatwoods.  The park has one of the highest rankings of parks in Florida for endemic biodiversity. It has beautiful old growth hardwood trees and thousand year old oaks!  Ferns and air plants (epiphytes) were abundant. 

We walked the Cypress Swamp Trail which had a boardwalk as well as a historic wooden catwalk through the swamp.  It was a walk through a cypress paradise!  We had hoped to observe wildlife, but no luck.  On the aforementioned tram tour we did see a four year old alligator and a couple of younger alligators, one born this past spring.  As young they have yellow bands that encircle their bodies.

Elsewhere, we saw deer, pileated and red-headed woodpeckers, and many palm warblers.  We found a tiny little mouse literally jumping from spot to spot, rather than scurrying!  It was cute to watch.  We think it stuck around us for a food hand-out!

We took a long bicycle ride around the park's scenic loop, our inaugural ride on cruiser style bikes we recently purchased.  

We had a father and son as our close camping neighbors and they were so nice to know.  When they left yesterday, they gave us their leftover firewood, and last night we sat around a beautiful campfire, and it was so quiet.  At one point, I played a flute in the silence and it was wonderful, according to Michael!

It was a wonderful stop on our ongoing adventure!

Orange grove planted by the CCC

A thousand year old live oak