Saturday was an early morning for me, arriving at Highlands Hammock State Park at 6 a.m. for the Sebring Chamber of Commerce 5K.
Many times I have run Highlands Hammock State Park but I always run faster in Lake Placid. Other runners tell me the hills in Lake Placid are bad for their time. Maybe I am part mountain goat, coming from Pennsylvania.
After Saturday’s race I noticed the new tree stump carvings in the park. A black bear on a stump near the picnic area was very detailed. Several people told me sculptor Frankie Flowers and his crew from Mountain Dan Chainsaw Art group camped in the park during September and created the bear as well as a Florida Panther from the stumps of downed pine trees. These two pieces — and others — will be unveiled Nov. 9 during the 28th annual Civilian Conservation Corps Festival. Enjoy entertainment, living history presentations, arts, crafts, educational exhibits, tram tours, hay rides, food, and more from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $6 per vehicle (up to eight people). The CCC Museum will show a 10-minute video of the early park construction by the Civilian Conservation Corp.
Fall is a great time to take the family out to meet nature. The weather is cooler, the rains have stopped, and wildlife is active. Check out www.floridastateparks.org/highlands hammock/. I found information on this site and in “The National Audubon Society Field Guide to Florida” book.
Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring is one of four original parks in Florida. In 1931 local residents who wanted to promote the hammock as a candidate for national park status set the property aside.
Visitors can get a glimpse of how Florida looked before development. This park is 5,000 acres with nine trails and a three-mile loop for biking, driving, roller-blading or skating. You can enjoy a six-mile off-roadway bicycle trail, best suited for fat-tired bikes. Bike rental is available at the ranger station.
Take a hike on the elevated boardwalk that winds through an old cypress swamp with song birds, woodpeckers, spiders, fish, and more. Park rangers offer a narrated tram ride for visitors to discover turtles, alligators, wading birds, and a description of vegetation.
If you are a bird watcher the park is home for over 177 species including Florida scrub jays, wood storks, pileated woodpeckers, sandhill cranes, brown-headed nuthatches, wild turkey, barred owls, swallow-tailed kites and bald eagles.
You could be lucky enough to see a rare sighting of a bobcat. I have seen white-tailed deer and wild hogs while running in the park. The park also offers a Fern Garden trail with over 30 species. A great opportunity to educate your family while having quality family fun.
I am not a camper but Highlands Hammock State Park offers outstanding campsites with water, electric hookups, dump station, restrooms, shower facilities, laundry, dishwashing areas and grills for the adventurous back-to-nature individuals. Your children can play in the playground with swings, monkey bars, walk-over ladder, small rock wall and slides. What fun!