Into the Heart of Florida

Vacation continued…
We woke up at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park in Northern Florida. We packed up the tent and quickly made our way to the front of the park where we decided to check out The Ravine from its’ roadside trailhead. We knew we had several hours of driving ahead of us, so this was a nice morning walk. (Read more about our vacation here)

Our goal was to camp at Highland Hammock State Park in Sebring, FL. We drove down the west-central artery of Florida where orange groves are everywhere. With the windows open we could smell the sweet orange blossoms and we saw numerous semi-trucks filled with oranges on the way to the orange juice plant. Unfortunately, we didn’t really have time to stop at any groves or tourist traps since we really wanted to get to the park in time for a hike before dark.

We arrived at Highland Hammock State Park in the late afternoon. This was one of the parks that was nearly full when we made our reservations several weeks ago. We had decided to go with a “wilderness” camping site which had sites more spaced out and only offered a pit toilet. We were happy that we did. Our site was beautiful with saw palmettos and live oaks. We set up our tent and then hit the trail.

Our campsite at Highland Hammock State Park.

When we planned this trip to Florida we were thrilled to discover that the parks that worked best for our trip were originally developed by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). This park in particular celebrates this history and offers a CCC Museum to explore. The museum was closed by the time we got there so we headed to the Loop Drive where several families were biking and walking the road. There are small parking areas for trails that lead to unique natural areas, but the Loop Drive in itself was quite an adventure winding around huge trees under a dense woven and drooping canopy. We parked and explored the Cypress Swamp Trail, Ancient Hammock Trail, Fern Garden Trail, Richard Lieber Trail, Hickory Trail, and Big Oak Trail.

The Big Oak is said to be over 1,000 years old.

Boardwalks weave through the cypress swamp and keep us high and dry. They also a allow for unique views of the seemingly unconcerned wildlife.

Three little pigs. Actually, there were five of these wild hogs digging up the ground.

A water snake resting on the surface of the swampy waters.

The Cypress Swamp.

Lindsay shows perspective with this big Live Oak Tree.

Wild orange trees! We opened a fallen orange but the bugs beat us to it.

The Florida woods continued to amaze us at every turn of the trail. Do Florida hikers reciprocate these feelings when they visit New England?

One of the many "catwalks" to keep your feet dry over the swamp land. It was mostly dry while we were there.

A Great Egret standing perfectly still.

This cypress swamp is still moist enough to grow grasses.

Cypress swamp

1,000 year old live oak tree.

Watch out for alligators!

After hiking almost all the trails in the park we headed back to our campsite and cooked up some dinner and called it a night. In the morning we woke up to the whistle of the northern bobwhite and a beautiful sunrise view from our “campsite cafe”. We sipped our coffee and watched wildland firefighters patrolling the area.

Good morning at Highland Hammock State Park.

We packed up and discovered the CCC Museum was still closed, but unfortunately we had other places to go and couldn’t wait. We headed south toward Naples to visit an awesome Audubon Center called Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

This sanctuary has a 2 mile long boardwalk trail that goes through several habitat types and is always host to many wildlife species. We took lots of pictures, here are a few of the highlights.

Two miles of boardwalk in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

An anhinga dries his wings while turtles sit perfectly still on a log.

Andrew leads the way.

We watched this little blue heron slowly walk through the green murky water.

Lindsay is ready for any wildlife sighting.

A big alligator just hanging out for all to photograph.

An Audubon volunteer told us this was an immature water moccasin!

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary wildlife list:
Alligator
Anhinga
Barred owl
Immature water moccasin
Black racers
Red-shouldered hawk
Florida redbelly turtle
Green anole
Southern water snake
Great blue heron
Little blue heron
Great egret
Black-crowned night heron
Yellow-crowned night heron
White ibis
Raccooon
Ruddy Daggerwing

After we enjoyed the wildlife at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary we made our way to Myakka River State Park…

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7 thoughts on “Into the Heart of Florida

  1. Pingback: Southbound Train « Outdoor Adventures

  2. Hi Lins and Andrew….absolutely amazing. I was behind you every step of the way. I love the Cypress swamps filled with life…sometimes odd creatures. And, the walkways are fun. I am delighted that you had a great time. Love, Bev

  3. You guys have had a fantastic FL adventure!

    Those boardwalks in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary are so similar to those at the new recently opened Mud Pond Trail at Pondicherry in Jefferson, NH. Have you been there yet to check it out?

    Thanks for posting! It’s great to see and read about new things!

    John

    • Thanks John. Yes, we’ve checked out Mud Pond, pretty neat. Florida has boardwalks everywhere, which was find by me since there were alligators and poisonous snakes lurking in the woods and waters!

  4. Pingback: Armadillos Attack! « Outdoor Adventures

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