State Parks


This page is dedicated to our exploration of state parks.
The posts are listed in calendar order,
with Florida parks first and North Carolina parks next.
Enjoy some of these wonderfully scenic recreation facilities soon!

~~~~~~~



Alafia River State Park in Lithia, FL

We started out 2011 on a positive note.  
We paid a visit to Alafia River State Park.
It was fantastic to see all the biking enthusiasts there.  
There are hiking and biking trails galore.  
You can even bring your horse for a ride on special pathways.

The park offers picnic areas, 
a playground for those who don't find the
hikes stimulating enough (imagine that!),
restrooms (one of my requirements) 
and overnight camping.
Admission is only $5 a carload.
What a wonderful way to spend a relaxing day 
doing something good for your body and spirit while spending time with
those who mean the most to you.  
My lil' guy wasn't keen on going, 
as he tends to tire easily, 
but he was excited to discover 
what lurked around each turn 
as we made our way through the woods.  
He inspires me so.  
We are looking forward 
to discovering the many state parks here in our area.
Can't think of a better way to start off a new year!



The start of our journey.


I couldn't help thinking what great mulch those leaves make!




A more adventurous climb.






"Uh, no, you will not stick your hand in there!"




What a lovely day for dining outdoors.


The road less traveled?

~~~~~~~

Lake Luisa State Park in Clermont, FL

This park is a bit less than an hour's drive for us. 
One of the unique features of this sanctuary
is the beach on the lake.  Here you can find
picnic tables so that you can enjoy the view
while having a bite.

This particular park offers RV camping as well as something
few parks offer-cabins.  For folks like us who no longer have an RV
and are considering getting back into camping, it's an ideal solution.
They also offer canoe rentals for those nature lovers
who want to investigate the waterways.

The day was gloomy, but we managed to dodge the rain.
I'm sure the pictures would be much different
with a bit more sunshine. 
Just another reason to make the trek back!




New-growth pine trees sprout up all over.

The start of our journey. 
Isn't it inviting to wonder where the trail leads?
Kinda like life, huh?

We thought this beautiful specimen would be just right for climbing.

I never tire of seeing trees.




We noticed that some of the trees had no branches along one side,
as seen here on the left side of this skyscraper.




Seed pods just waiting to find their spot.

Trails are well-marked (see the blue paint on the trees?)
to keep you on your path.



 A peaceful feeling envelopes you
as you relish the stillness.





I hope you'll take the time to visit one of our
lovely state parks soon.
I look forward to exploring the next one!

~~~~~~~


Welcome to Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring!



This park offers paved and dirt bike trails, walking trails, camping, picnic areas, a playground,
boardwalks, and an hour-long tram ride.



It's green, lush, and oh so Florida.





The skyscrapers here are something to behold!



Wonderful species are found in the pools of collected water.







The air was cool and crisp on this day before spring.
Not a mosquito in sight!



Remnants of old growth make way for new greenery and
provide a home for forest life.



Lovely ferns could be found everywhere!



I believe this is a Florida maple, one of my favorites!



The enormous Cypress trunks seem like something
out of a fairy tale.



Highlands Hammock is home to the CCC Museum.
I was fascinated to learn about this amazing program. 

As one of the original four Florida State Parks, Highlands Hammock had its birth in the years of the Great Depression when local citizens resisted efforts to turn the area into agricultural lands. Later the Civilian Conservation Corps was called in and, from camps within the park, worked to restore the area, create facilities and fence the park's boundaries. Highlands Hammock opened as a state park in 1935. A commemorative statue and CCC museum recognizing the contributions of the Civilian Conservation Corps and its help in the development of the Florida public parks reside within the Highlands Hammock State Park.





So far, I think this is our favorite park. 
Fortunately for us, it is close by. 
Oh yeah, we'll be back...

~~~~~~~


Payne's Creek is in Bowling Green, just outside of Fort Meade.



What a great day for exploring something new!





The sculptural form of this still life caught my eye.
I love the contrast in color and texture.





Most trails here are unpaved and sandy.





A touch of color here and there helped us remember
that God is the only caretaker needed in this natural setting.



The shallow water was moving surprisingly fast.
The alligator warning signs kept our toes out of the creek.



One of the highlights of this park is the suspension bridge.
We'd never been on one before.
Even the lil' guy (who is sometimes leery of heights)
was willing to venture across.
It shakes, rattles and rolls as you make your way over.
So cool!







Here's the view from the top of the bridge.



Lushness abounds.








The stillness is almost sacred.



It was a clear day. 
And very tropical feeling...



We stopped at the visitor center to get more information.
The air conditioning felt good too!




Inside the main building,
you'll find a replica of what the forts looked like.



Historical relics found on site rest here.



Plenty of places to sit and just take in the serenity...



Can't think of a nicer setting to have a picnic lunch.





We feel blessed to be able to enjoy the wonders of nature
right in our own backyard.

~~~~~~~



For Mother's Day, we made our monthly state park visit.





Myakka River State Park is by far the largest
park we've been to this year.
The trees that surround this lush oasis
seem to go on for miles!





Trails are well-shaded, making for
an easy hiking experience.



The moss is a fascination to those
who hail from other regions.
It does add to the charm of Central Florida.



I found the shape of this tall beauty amusing.



 This boardwalk leads to a great spot
for bird watching.



This wader has found its own piece of paradise.



After being surrounded by a long, brown winter,
it's refreshing to see how effortlessly
Mother Nature has revived Herself in spring.



Several critters were spotted off the bridge
as we took our bike ride.
It's kind of scary to realize that they do not seem
to be even the least bit intimidated by humans.




Inside the visitor's center, you'll find information about
native Florida animal species, as well as interactive exhibits
and an ongoing film presentation.

We always sign the guest book. 
We found folks from as far as
North Carolina, Canada and New Zealand
had been there on this day.



The tower leading to the suspension bridge
was a highlight.



This solid tower stands 75 feet tall
and is quite the workout.  I could feel my calves
had woken up by the time we reached the fourth story.




Here's how it looks from the top.



Standing on the topmost platform,
the suspension bridge below.





There's a four-person limit on the bridge at any one time.
We decided that the almost two-hour trip was
made worthwhile by this feature alone.




The only drawback to going this month
is that it's lovebug season.
Needless to say, Big K had his work cut out for him
when we got back home.

This is one park we plan to revisit when the weather cools off.
There is a lot to see and do that we didn't have time for,
as we got a late start.
There are canoe rentals, a tram or boat ride,
and picnic areas with a playground.



Enjoying our state parks has been
so rewarding and humbling.
How blessed we are to take each step...

~~~~~~~

With temperatures climbing into the 90's daily now,
we decided we wanted to get back to
Highlands Hammock State Park
before the sweltering summer
keeps us boarded up at home.



Blue skies greeted us at every turn.
Surprisingly, we only saw a handful of other folks.



Bikes are available for rent.
Here's my sweet ride.




Seed pods galore could be found
in almost every lovely vignette.




More color, too, was found this time 'round.




Still, the tranquility of the surroundings helps one appreciate every quiet moment.




Wildlife can be found, although hopefully, not too close!
Lil' guy came upon a turtle, but believe it or not,
he was faster at getting into his shelter
than I was with the camera!








Ample shade was one reason we chose this park
for our June visit.






This shot to me says "Florida".





We explored dirt trails this time.
Good workout!




We made our way over to the campground
and took a spin around.
Hopefully, we will get back into camping someday.
It's really the type of vacation we are most suited for.




I guess this cardinal didn't read the sign, eh?





So glad we got back here again.
It's one of our favorite state parks.
Happy trails!


~~~~~~~

With the heat of summer fading,
it was time to get back into our monthly ritual
of visiting our state parks.
We decided on something close by in North Lakeland.




Colt Creek State Park is a little over an hour's drive for us.
This 5,000 + acre haven is only 5 years old.





Native plants thrive in the conditions here.




There were a myriad of butterflies in this garden patch.





With ample trails, it's no wonder folks enjoy bringing
their horses to spend the day.




Kayaks and canoes can be found for rent.
We saw a few fishermen on the nearby pier.





We ate our lunch under this screened-in pavillion.
The bathrooms were nice-n-tidy,
a must for this sightseer.





An expanse of tall grasses line the waterway.




We marveled at the pathways made up of seashells.




Winding foottrails waiting for us to explore.





These "Tarzan" vines were all over.
I resisted the urge to yodel and swing...




Check out the height on this beauty!




Big K spotted this monster of a bug.
We saw more...





Not sure if you can zoom in on this bird.
Looks like it's scouting for a meal.





Informational kiosks can be found
to increase your native knowledge.




Outdoor picnic areas were well-shaded and free from bugs!




Lil' Guy was fascinated by these shells.
We found out through the ranger that they are apple snails.
They are the preferred food of the limpkins.









It was a great day for birdwatching
and taking a hike.

Man, I love fall!

~~~~~~~

We haven't been able to do much bike riding as a family
in the last year due to other obligations.
We decided to pay another visit to one of our favorite
state parks-
Highland Hammocks in Sebring, FL.



Ready for a tour?








Walking trails are a great detour for stretching your legs.




The cypress knees spotted the forest floor.




We marveled at the height of the tree canopy.




With an abundance of shade,
it's no wonder there is lovely moss growing,
even right on the paved roads.




This is the same shrub that we found growing in our yard.
It has dark leaves and pink blooms.
Must be a native.




There was a lot of standing water this time.
We'd never seen these puddle-loving purple blooms before.





It's not easy to see here,
but there was a spider web stretched from the tree
on the farthest left to the farthest right.
(Sorry, I don't know how to add arrows.)
Wow, that was some work!




I think it'll have food stocked up for quite a while.




This is one of the buildings built by the CCC
long ago.



We managed to find some critters on our adventure,
or maybe they found us...




Lil' Guy spotted this beauty as we entered the park.




This sweet thing came to pay us a visit
as we sat down to eat.




He's spied our picnic spot!




Little stinker wanted some of our lunch.




It sure felt good to be out there!
Hopefully, we'll get to do this a lot more often.

Have a wonderful day, y'all!

~~~~~~~

We spent the day at Crowders Mountain State Park 
near Gastonia, North Carolina. 
What a wonderful way to spend my 50th birthday!



It was overcast and we met only a few other 
hikers on the trails. 
It's so soothing to hear wild birds in their native habitat 
enjoying the beauty that God has created.
 We climbed one of the more strenuous (according to our guide) trails, which was less than 2 miles long. 
I could've walked all day, but alas, 
my lil' guy has a harder time with physical demands.




 The lush greenery all around us was outstanding. 
I can imagine it would take years to discover just how many plant species lie in wait. An array of hues and textures 
were displayed over varying terrain. 
It took us about an hour to make it to trail's end.


We ended our visit with a picnic lunch by the lakefront.
It was as if we had the whole park to ourselves.
I can't think of a better way 
to begin this next segment of my life. 
Being in nature feels so right, so centering. 
The bounty of God's gifts are all around us,
 if we just take the time to appreciate them.






We are enjoying getting familiar
with the state parks of North Carolina.

~~~~~~~