Highlands Hammock announces annual First Day Hikes
— Start the New Year off on the right foot at Highlands Hammock! —
Sebring: Start the New Year off on the right foot at Highlands Hammock State Park! ‘First Day’ Hikes are an annual tradition at parks all across the country, and Highlands Hammock is holding two scheduled walks on Tuesday morning, January 1. In conducting research on historical trails that were abandoned during the 1940s, Ranger Laura McMullen has worked with park staff and located several trails during the past four years. She has been involved with the clearing and maintenance of these trails with the help of volunteers. According to Park Services Specialist Carla Sherwin, “ROTC cadets from both Lake Placid High School and Avon Park High have been invaluable in contributing many hours towards trail restoration by trimming back the overgrowth and removing Caesar Weed and other exotic, invasive plants from these trails.” “It followed that Ranger McMullen’s research quite naturally led to a series of ‘off the beaten path’ treks she enjoys conducting annually for visitors on New Year’s morning,” Sherwin continued. Ranger McMullen has stated that “Offering ‘off the beaten path’ hikes is an opportunity to walk trails other than those on the Loop Road, some of which are in restricted areas not open to the public.” Park visitors joining McMullen will journey back in time to primitive Florida on the historical Sweetgum Trail, which extends off of the Ancient Hammock Trail and exits at Cottage Road. Visitors are instructed to park at the Ancient Hammock trailhead and meet Ranger McMullen at 8:30 a.m. The one-mile round trip hike will take approximately one hour, and the level of difficulty is rated moderate. Registration for this field trip is required as space is limited. Sign up by calling the Ranger Station at 863-386-6094 or register via email to [email protected].
Following a short break, Ranger McMullen will lead hikers on a Trek to the Historic Dam at 9:45 a.m. Visitors may take a leisurely stroll through forested wetlands along the park’s bike path to reach an historic dam with a scenic overview of cypress swamp. Hikers will explore the ecology of hammocks and swamps and learn about their associated flora and fauna. Visitors may chance seeing an alligator or an otter and observe air plants, birds and other wildlife along the way. Meet at 9:45 a.m. at the Mammal Kiosk, located between the Young Hammock Trail and Cypress Swamp on the Loop Road. The hike will cover 1.5 miles round trip and take approximately an hour and 15 minutes. The degree of difficulty of this field trip ranges from easy to moderate. Hikers should dress for the weather and wear hiking boots, long pants and protective clothing. A hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, water, and snacks are also advised, and binoculars and walking sticks may be useful. Park entry fees of $6.00 per vehicle (up to 8 persons), $4.00 per single occupant vehicle, and $2.00 for bicyclists and visitors walking on foot apply.