Daily Archives: 21 April 2016

CCC Museum

CCC Museum
The CCC Museum, built by the CCC in 1939

Within Highlands Hammock State Park is the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum. The CCC was started in 1933 as a part of FDR’s New Deal during the Great Depression. Originally, the program provided jobs to men between the ages of 18-23, it was eventually expanded to the ages of 17-28. The main target of the work was environmental: reforesting, erosion control, parks, flood control and similar projects.

CCC Barracks
Barracks life in the CCC

The young men were provided food, shelter, clothing and a small payment of $30, of which $25 went directly to their families. The CCC was in every state and territory, and at any one time 300,000 men were in the program. Over the nine years leading up to WWII, 3 million men went through the CCC.

Florida CCC display

I’ve seen CCC works all around the country, and several parks within Florida have signs of the Civilian Conservation Corps having been there. The enrollees were called Roosevelt’s Tree Army by some, due to the 3 billion trees planted by the CCC in a major reforestation plan for the country. The CCC was responsible for over 1/2 of the country’s reforestation.

CCC Monument
Dedicated to all CCC enrollees who were injured, disabled or lost their lives performing their duties. Especially those 228 CCC members who lost their lives in the three Upper Keys Camps, Florida on 2 September 1935 in the Labor Day Hurricane.

CCC Poster

It’s a neat, little museum, and the volunteer I spoke with served at Eielson AFB in 1958, before Alaska was granted statehood. There were several volunteers there who had been involved with the CCC as young men. A common theme was that they had lied about their age to get in; also that it did them a world of good. One mentioned that a side effect of the CCC program was that the majority of those men were later involved in WWII, and that the CCC allowed them to adapt to the military rather quickly. Something I had not considered before.

Noted CCC alums: Alvin C. York, Raymond Burr, Robert Mitchum, Chuck Yeager, Stan Musial, and Walter Matthau.

The Last of the Dragons

When I passed the birder on the Cypress trail, I was on the hunt for one thing: ‘Gator. I was bound and determined to see an alligator, even if I had to start looking over fences and into people’s backyard swimming pools. As luck would have it, I would not have to wait very long, nor resort to such tactics.

This nice ‘gator came swimming upstream 15 minutes or so after I arrived. I took its picture, then this video, followed by a few more pics. I was down to the camera phone at the time, and I had one film camera with me as well.

Alligator on the bank

I sat down and watched the alligator climb up onshore and into a sunny patch to work on its tan. When the birder came along, I pointed it out. She told me those things are “everywhere”. Well, they are not in Alaska, so that makes them unique to me.

Now I want to see a Florida panther.

The blog title was shamelessly, yet respectfully, procured from Peter Fleming’s classic travel tale “Brazilian Adventure”

Highlands Hammock

Highlands Hammock

The lure of ‘gators and an interest in seeing a hammock, led to a visit to Highlands Hammock. A hammock is an area in the south, with many in Florida, that has an elevation slightly higher than its surroundings, which allows hardwoods to grow. It is also an area with an incredibly rich soil, so it is ripe land to be converted for agriculture.

Highlands is one of Florida’s “original four”; it opened in 1931, before the Florida Parks system was started.

Wetlands in Highlands

A unique park, with some wonderful trails. There is one main loop, which has a series of loops that branch out from the main. I spent an entire morning just looping from trail to trail. A fun day, and the mosquitos were minimal. Wildlife everywhere in this little gem of a park. From hurons to egrets to deer and plenty of curious raccoons.

Florida Oak

The flora was equally impressive. Many huge Live Oaks, some over 1000 years old. The Alexander Blair “Big Oak” is a massive tree… in width if not height. Over 36′ feet around, but the monster has lost its top, The top is there laying on the ground, showing rebar and a lot of cement in what was a repair job that lasted who-knows-how-long. There is some green growth at the top, but I couldn’t help but chuckle at the anti-climax once I hit the end of that trail.

Young Hammock
Trail through the Young Hammock

The Young Hammock had a lot of pines transitioning over to oaks. It was more open and a breeze came down the trail.

Ancient Hammock
In the middle of the Ancient Hammock

I was told this was virgin Florida forest. Huge Live Oaks, and cabbage palms surround you in this ancient forest. Thick vegetation and not a lot of air movement while on this walk through time.

The Cypress catwalk trails takes you through a bald cypress swamp. I saw several hurons out there, and numerous egrets. I met a woman on the catwalk who was originally from Michigan and now lived in Tallahassee. She was a birder, and scolded me in a good natured way for walking past a hawk nest. I was on a mission, and it wasn’t looking for hawks. In turn, I gave her a hard time for being a birder without binoculars. I thought one was kicked out of the cult for leaving them behind.
We both enjoyed the minimal catwalk through much of the swamp. Hard to imagine a catwalk, completely open on one end, is use in a National Park. Someone could get their feet wet.