Well the annual winter camping trip to Florida was last week – just in time for the big cold front… Oh well Amy and I still had a great time. We visited Highland Hammocks State Park in/near Sebring. It is a beautiful park with lots of interesting trails for hikers and bicyclist alike. This area of Florida is very marshy and is pretty much the norther tip of the Everglades. There are swamps and lakes everywhere. Man made canals connect the bigger ones together it seems. So the ecosystem is quite a bit different here than we’re used to. There were a ton of cypress trees, wild citrus trees, countless varieties of water plants, and some unexpected critters too. The 15 hours drive south took a toll on my knee and it was really causing me some mobility issues. So Amy took it easy on me the first day and we only hiked 15,000 steps according to her Fit Bit.
Monday – On one of the trail heads we saw a black panther! It was about 50 yards down the trail from us and just kind of looked back at us and casually walked down the trail, out of sight from us forever. We also explored the 7 lakes area in Sebring and I caught my first ever Florida bass. Not a big one but still a fish. Caught it on a Zoom Super Fluke. We spooked a big black snake which scared us both a bit. Didn’t see many aligators with the cold temps (fifties during the day) and that was fine with us.
Tuesday – Turns out all that walking was good for the knee because day 2 the pain was all gone. We biked quite a bit on Tuesday and explored Lake Istokpoga and did some fishing.
Wednesday – we headed west to Myakka River State Park which is another great Florida park that you should consider. We spent the whole day poking around there and fishing too (of course). Most of the trails were flooded so that greatly limited our hiking in the park. If you ever get to Myakka bring some night crawlers for the Talapia – very tasty.
Thursday – Got up early for the 1 hour-ish drive south to Lake Okeechobee. My friend Matt Cash had recommended a top Okeechobee guide Bryan Honnerlaw (Facebook: Lake Okeechobee Outdoors) so my wife and I spent the day on the Big O with Bryan. Bryan had warned me that the fishing was extremely tough due to the cold front and he was right but we had a great day on the water anyway. This lake is totally different than the typical Ohio / Indiana lakes I fish. We were flying across the lake in 3 foot of water and weaving in tiny cuts in the reeds. It was a learning experience for sure. Bryan had me chucking giant swim baits, punching mats with 1.5 oz tungsten, and throwing some other baits as well. We caught a few but nothing to brag about. Most everyone we talked to blanked. I’d love to get back on the lake under better conditions. I’d highly recommend Bryan as a guide. He really worked with my wife and myself and tried so hard to put us on fish. I’d definitely look him up if you’re going to be in the area.
We had intended to leave for the 15 hour trip back to Cincinati on Friday but heard the predictions for serious snow accumulations through Tennessee and Kentucky so we headed out Thursday around 6PM. Glad we did too because by the time we got to London KY interstate 75N was a slippery mess. We had to ease pass stranded semis and barely made it through ourselves. Shortly after we got through they closed the highway for 19 hours. So we were exhausted but happy to get home after a 19 hour drive.