Saturday, January 7, 2012

to Highlands Hammock State Park and beyond

Bidding the Everglades a fond farewell we began our trip north. Brian, whom we had met at the Park had prepared us well for the trip along 27 explaining to us the various areas we would be traversing. As a born and raised Southern Floridian he was spot on.

We backtracked our way back up the 997 crossing paths with the 41 which we had come east on. We continued through to the 27. It was actually a very sad drive as there was not a thing to look at but empty land and A LOT of dead trees. I always feel homesick in such areas.

Anyway, we quickly reached the 27 and taking a left began our journey on this large 4 lane divided highway - or is it 2 lane divided? Derek and I had this discussion in the truck - 2 lanes either side - divided. 

Exciting travel talk eh?!

I always feel bad that our posts show little of the 'in between time' the actual time we are on the road. Yes, I do so some but compared to all the miles we travel precious few of those end up here.

So - here are a few along the way......

Hard to tell it is Florida - right?

Although we hadn't been driving too long we turned into the John Stretch Park just north of South Bay. A great park for a rest - we were sad that we had just had lunch at a rest area. No matter - we could all use a walk and a trip to the playground. If you are ever this way it is worth pulling in to.

I imagine you could walk for hours along this walkway - it lines Lake Okeechobee.

Back on the 27 we entered the Sugar Cane growing area. I don't know - I don't think we would have known what these farms were growing if Brian hadn't mentioned. I don't think I knew what sugar cane looked like out in the field - do you? Well - this is it. Not the best picture in the world.

Derek and I almost became obsessed with getting a good picture. For miles we were in awe at the beauty of the sun illuminating the pink flowers (seed heads) of the canes from behind. BUT - do you think there was a place to pull off and get a good picture? Nope.

We did actually pull off to take this picture but not quite what we were going for.

Next, came the orange groves. Again - no real chance for a good picture while moving. BUT this was our first look at orange groves in Florida.

The best picture.........

most turned out like this.........

Our destination this day was the Highlands Hammock State Park near to Sebring. Although we only had 72 miles to go, with leaving late and stopping along the way, we pulled in just before dark. Lest you think that south central Florida is quiet compared to the coast areas it isn't just all sleepy little towns. We were surprised that the area around Lake Placid and Sebring - just little dots on the map - are actually booming retirement and snowbird places - must be all the lakes in the area.

Anyway - we were happy to to have arrived and made our way to site #50 - right beside a what? yes, the playground! We had decided to spend - literally - a few nights at a state park on our way to the conference to charge all of our electronics, have showers and do our laundry. Although reasonable for Florida it was a definite splurge for us at $23.98/night. But boy did we enjoy having the heater on for a near freezing two nights.

Site #50 at Highlands Hammock State Park.

Actually a very busy place.

There are many trails to take - on this one we felt like a dinosaur would step out any moment.

This was to be our fourth visit to a Big Oak and I guess it still is but sadly it hasn't survived. The trail guide listed it as 1000 yrs old and 36 feet around.

Friday morning it was time to leave the park for Plant City! With not far to go we took our time getting reading in the morning and getting in some good playground time. Our route was little more convoluted since we had to keep moving west. After several towns and more orange groves we were on route 60 closing in on Plant City.

Now, for those of you that don't know - as we didn't but surely do now - Plant City is known for it's strawberries. On this morning though with all the Orange groves that we had been driving by Derek and I were anxiously trying to find a fruit stand to stop at to buy some fruit. Apparently there aren't many.

Just as I was directing Derek to take a right onto the 39 - his foot hit the brake - I mean REALLY hit the brake as he had just seen this....

and this....

And so, we made a not to gracious entrance into the Strawberry Palace. We were so glad he was on the ball and we truly enjoyed our stop at this very fine produce stand. We are getting pretty good at fair prices and quality and so were so happy to see a combination of both. Cassia was quick to help herself to the strawberry samples while Derek and I learned about all of the choices of oranges.

If you ever find yourself any where near or at the corner of route 60 and 39 just south of Plant City - we highly recommend that you stop here - particularly if it is lunch time. We just got produce this day but we may have to return before we leave the area for a cuban and some strawberry pie.

Strawberry fields - that go on - forever.

And that's the kind of day it was - or couple of days I guess. It was nice to travel through agriculture areas we really enjoy the openness of the landscape. We were happy to be showered and with clean clothes and warm the night through.

Thanks for visiting - drop us a line won't you.


Today's Interesting Link: My sister just sent me this link - I guess she figures we may as well put our orange peels to good use! I hadn't heard of the site Instructables - surprisingly. You can go here to make your own Orange Candle. I also checked out the camping section and plan to get going on our new duct tape hammock right away :) - pretty funny stuff at this site.


  1. You guys are just having to much darned fun!! Plant City used to have an annual Strawberry Festival, I think in March?? Glad you enjoyed the area, and the Glades as well!

    That must have been a wonderful experience for Cassia to see the gators up close!! Trust me, she will remember these trips her whole life!!

    Safe Travels to you!

  2. Hey Blacksheep - ya they do and it is in March - so we'll miss that. Weare having fun and today our fun quotient is going sky high - a life made simple is going to have some high living. We have been invited to stay at a hotel for 4 nights this week - a Marriott no less!

    We know Cassia won't remember much but it sure laying a great foundation!


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