Florida on a Tankful: Highlands Hammock offers peace

By Scot Fais, Feature Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, January 26, 2017, 11:25 PM EST

A world away from to-do lists and commitments, awaits more than 9,000 acres of unspoiled Florida.

"The word hammock, actually, they believe it comes from an Indian word which… meant a cool, dry, shady area,” shared Laura McMullen, a state park ranger at Highlands Hammock State Park.

Protected from the sun's rays, the thick canopy is Laura McMullen's wonderland.

"That's a cabbage palm and they tend to fall apart,” Laura says while strolling down a dirt path, carved from the underbrush.  It’s here, where Laura thinks she hears a barred owl.

"It kinda makes a sound like, "Who-Cooks-For-You?" she said.

"Can you do it?” Scott asked.

"No,” Laura said with a laugh.

But the Highlands Hammock park ranger has an app that does make the sound, as long as her smartphone has a signal.

"He has such a neat call,” she said while pushing a button.

Folks try to spot the owl while strolling a boardwalk, where blue heron roam.  Outside the covered area, hawks keep a watchful eye on visitors, while armadillos roam across pathways that lead to 500-year old trees.

"Oak trees start rotting from the inside out,” Laura said.

Look close and see an oak tree that humans filled in with cement to prevent further rot.  Exposed rebar is also apparent, when steel was used to keep limbs of the tree standing.

Also at Highlands Hammock -- the lodge built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal" plan gave young men jobs doing manual labor, developing natural resources, like these in Highlands County.

"They were very instrumental in getting the structure for the park,” Laura says.

Today, a detailed museum shows highlights of the CCC’s decade of service during the Great Depression.

Highlands Hammock: One Park. One day away.

"Come out and enjoy some nature, that peace and quiet,” Laura concludes.

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