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