The kids enjoy a dinner of barbecue chicken, corn and baked beans while camping at Highlands Hammock State Park. Islander Photos: Kevin Cassidy
One of many gators spotted sunning itself on the bank of Charlie Bowlegs Creek during a tour of Highlands Hammock State Park.
Eighteen kids pose in a majestic oak tree at the youth campsite at Highlands Hammock State Park.
Lilah Bowers enjoys dinner and camping at Highlands Hammock State Park.
Thomas Fellowes waits patiently for seconds of banana pancakes at breakfast.
Highlands Hammock great for camping, hiking, learning
This writer, along with six other fathers, packed up our vehicles with 19 kids, tents and provisions for a Nov. 24-26 stay at Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring. It’s about a two-hour trek straight east from Bradenton, and worth the drive.
Highlands Hammock is one of Florida’s oldest parks, opening to the public in 1931. It is one of three local state parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to put people to work and dig the United States out of the Great Depression.
Myakka State Park to the south and Hillsborough River State Park to the north also were built in the 1930s by the CCC.
Highlands Hammock offers a variety of activities, including a scenic 3-mile bicycle loop and hiking along the park’s nine trails. There’s also an elevated boardwalk that gives hikers an up-close look at an old-growth cypress swamp.
The park offers guided, narrated pram tours through areas of the park that are otherwise restricted to public access. Our group discovered at least 30 alligators. including babies, two deer, a red shouldered hawk and countless other animals on the tour along Charlie Bowlegs Creek, with breathtaking views of the swamp and hammock.
The park also houses the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum, which brings to life the 1930-40s era when the park was constructed and jobs were scarce in the United States. The museum photos showcase the young men and their hard labor. The camps provided workers with food, clothing and shelter and paid them $30 a month, $25 of which had to be sent home.
Though our group had to endure some heavy rain, we still managed to have a great time. Best of all — despite having 19 kids ranging in ages from 7 to 15, there were few noses buried in cellphones, a rarity these days.
Next adventure, Fort De Soto Park in December.
Three teams emerged from pool play during Nov. 30 horseshoe action at the Anna Maria City Hall pits and were left to battle for the day’s bragging rights. The team of Dom Livedoti and Larry Delarber drew the bye and watched as Tim Sofran and Herb Puryear defeated Hank Huyghe 22-13 to advance to the finals. The finals were all Livedoti-Delarber as they rolled to a 21-4 victory in the championship game.
Nov. 27 action also saw three teams advance to the knockout round. Norm Good and Gene Bobeldyk were too good for Bob Heiger and Huyghe, earning a 21-11 victory to advance to the championship match against Livedoti and Tom Skoloda. Good and Bobeldyke stayed hot, defeating Livedoti-Skoloda 22-11 to earn the day’s bragging rights.
Play gets under way at 9 a.m. every Wednesday and Saturday at the Anna Maria City Hall pits. Warmups begin at 8:45 a.m., followed by random team selection.
There is no charge to play and everyone is welcome.
Registration ongoing for indoor soccer tourney
The Anna Maria Island Community Center is accepting registrations for its 14th annual indoor soccer tournament Dec. 12-19 with weekday games played 5-10 p.m. at the center and weekend games played 9 a.m.-9 p.m..
The cost to play is $100 per team and each participant receives a tournament T-shirt. Teams need 6-12 players, and adult teams — all coed — are required to have a female on the court at all times.
For more information, contact tournament director and sports director Matt Ray at 941-778-1908, ext. 9205, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
More sports offerings
The center is accepting players in its winter lineup of adult coed sport leagues — flag football, volleyball and tennis.
Games begin in January and players who sign up for two sports get a $25 discount.
Flag football tryouts are Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. and teams will be chosen on the field. Games will be played on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The cost is $75 for center members and $110 and non-members.
The cost for tennis is $50 for singles and $85 for doubles. Games will be played on Tuesday evenings starting at 6 p.m.
Register online at www.islandcommunitycenter.com.
LOOK for more sports, including Key Royale Club golf news and more photos from Kevin Cassidy’s group adventure to Highlands Hammock State Park online at www.islander.org.