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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary wildlife list:
Immature water moccasin
Florida redbelly turtle
Southern water snake
Great blue heron
Little blue heron
Black-crowned night heron
Yellow-crowned night heron
After we enjoyed the wildlife at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary we made our way to Myakka River State Park…