Spending the Weekend in a Hammock
What a nice swamp we spent the weekend in! Highlands Hammock is one of the best secrets in Florida's State Park system, and one of the most exquisite.
As we expected, Great Outdoors had a remote site which was pretty much limited to our group of nine. Out site was shaded by broad Live Oak and Slash Pine trees, and surrounded by abundant palmettos, which afforded ample privacy. We were about a mile away from the more conventional campsites...lucky for them!
The real gimmick to this place is that it is a virgin hardwood hammock, virtually unchanged since humans began tinkering with Florida's landscape. There are six hiking trails of modest length through some of the most charming deep-woods scenery this side of Hansel and Gretel. Huge old oaks are interspersed with pines, tall bent palms, Wild Orange and Bald Cypress trees. Terrain varies from wetland to highland.
We spotted deer, beaver, snakes, armadillos, terrapin and feral pigs (wild pigs descended from those once domesticated). We were spotted in turn by billions of mating "Love Bugs" the bane of Central Florida in September. They don't sting and they don't bite, but they do get into and onto everything. If anyone is aware of an environmental purpose for these windshield kamikaze lemmings, please let me know (and I promise to stop mixing metaphors).
The most stunning jewel of the park is the Cypress Swamp...really! A one mile loop starts on a broad boardwalk and narrows into a wooden catwalk about two and a half feet wide, with a handrail only on one side. The temperature drops a few degrees as you move from the heat of day into the cool primeval dampness of the wetland. Tall cypress trunks rise like columns in a gothic cathedral to a swaying canopy of green, far above, and prompt silent awe from visitors.
This is not a stagnant, fetid place; clear, tea-colored water moves swiftly through the foliage and adds vibrancy to the stillness. The woods opens to a pond fringed with light green Duckweed, and teeming with aquatic foliage. The peace of the setting inspires introspection. We liked it a lot.
Out campfire conversation was a hazard to the facial laugh muscles. Robert from Palm Beach conducted another seminar from the authoritative journal "Men's Health" magazine, on presenting a better professional image, highlighted by a practical exercise in speaking to your colleagues in the same "natural voice" that you use to tell your dog Fifi not to steal a steak from your table. (Basso: "FIFI...NO!!")
Robert then initiated a round-robin impromptu story-telling extravaganza, which was as bold in content as it was dynamic in sweep. Action moved from the early twentieth century in a certain swamp in Sebring, Florida to a garret in San Francisco, to the days of the Mineshaft in New York, and featured such unforgettable characters as Emmanual the "Swamp Thing", Ying and Yang, the not-quite harmonious Asian brothers, Angelina Doris, the kosher mamacita, and the Butch Susie, the leather pig, with eight magic nipple rings. Movie rights are pending.