We lived in Florida for 24 years and were never big fans of its famous man-made attractions—kayaking on a Florida river is much more enjoyable than riding on the Jungle Cruise at Disney World. It’s also much more exciting to kayak with real alligators rather than Disney’s animatronic versions. And Florida offers many other opportunities to enjoy real nature including crystal-clear springs, marshes, mangrove swamps, prairies and over 1200 miles of coastline, more coastline than any other state except Alaska.
Much of Florida’s best natural resources are preserved in its state parks, where we are living in our Airstream this winter. We started camping seriously over six years ago, mainly so we could do more kayaking. Since that time we have camped at about 30 Florida state parks, from the Florida Keys to Pensacola in the panhandle. We are big fans of Florida state parks and we highly recommend them—they are the real Florida.
We stayed last week at one of the oldest state parks in Florida, Highlands Hammock, located about two hours south of Orlando near Sebring, FL. Hammocks are elevated areas that are slightly above surrounding marshes and other wetlands–in south Florida they support tropical forests like those at Highlands Hammock.
The park was very nice with many hiking and biking trails. Unfortunately, the campground was not so great—very crowded with not a lot of privacy. It also rained for three straight days which limited our outdoor activities. Here are some photos from Highlands Hammock.
The campground—can you find the Airstream? (It’s actually another Airstream, not ours.) It’s a great campground for extroverts who want to spend their vacation talking to strangers.
Our camp site (car with the kayaks)—we were hanging out with the tenters. Actually, we had no neighbors during the week but, as always, the campground filled up on the weekend.
At breakfast one morning we looked out our window and saw these inmates removing invasive plant species from behind the camp sites. It’s good to know that they can be environmentally-conscious despite their incarceration.
Patty hiking on a walkway through the cypress swamp—the walkway was wet and slippery and the handrail was too low, which made for an exciting hike.
Cypress trees reflected in the water
A great egret in the swamp
Patty hiking through the tropical hardwood hammock—it looks like a scene from Jurassic Park. Ed was on the lookout for velociraptors.
Ed standing next to a live oak that has been damaged by fire—there are several trees over one thousand years old in the park.
More scenes from the park–all in all, a visit to Highlands Hammock State Park is definitely worthwhile.
On a totally unrelated subject, we were able to watch the Super Bowl in our Airstream Sunday. For Patty, it was a perfect Super Bowl because:
- she rooted for Seattle and former Gator Percy Harvin who played well,
- she saw most of the commercials, and
- the game was settled by the third quarter so Ed allowed her to switch to Downton Abbey.