Myakka, strange name, great place

Myakka State Park

Years ago when I was a teenager my family would take winter trips to Florida. All seven of us would travel in a pick-up camper which made it prime bonding time. I think we usually stayed about two weeks, about as long as we could stand to bond, and in that time, we would park in private and state parks along the way. Myakka was often one of the northern-most state parks we would visit in our search for sunshine and beaches. The Myakka River is one of the national wild, scenic rivers and a small weir widens the waterway out into Myakka Lake.

Two of the memorable things about Myakka that are still going on today are the tram ride to look for wildlife and the airboat ride, also to look for wildlife. I’ve done both. We were always successful seeing the “a” animals, armadillos and alligators, but there are also occasional deer and lots and lots of birds.

20180525_1100413935253402842715325.jpg
Me and three old trees

This park is always pretty busy in the winter when the weather is cool and conducive to camping and hiking. There are over 39 miles of trail in this park. I’ve hiked there once and you also get a good idea what Florida’s pine flats are like. As the name suggests, very flat, lots of pines and palmetto. The park does a good job of controlled burns and maintenance of the trails.

I mentioned in another post that in the 30 years we’ve lived here, the husband had not been to this park at all. People would visit us and I would take them to Myakka but Dennis would be working. That has been remedied, and none too soon. On the Friday before Memorial Day we visited the park with our good friends who go there quite often. This weekday was a good time to beat the crowds, although there were quite a few there by noon when we left. This was also an unusual time since we had just started having seasonal rains and the river and lake were FULL. Some campsites were underwater and the water level was way above the tree line.

 

20180525_1000014159927992988116076.jpg
Chef at work

My friends usually take breakfast or a snack to a picnic table close to the lake, but this table had been removed so we chose one of the pavilions for our breakfast spot. I had no idea this was going to be such a feast, but my friend is an excellent host and planner so all the bases were covered. Her husband was soon cooking bacon and eggs over a charcoal fire while the three of us sat watching him with our coffee and homemade biscuits. The picnic area is well appointed and close to parking and restrooms.

20180525_1000443422822679080987748.jpg
Hostess and the husband, holding down the table

While there we watched people arriving for the airboat tour, the first one starting at 10 a.m. We could see the new gift shop and boat dock from our picnic table. I made a quick trip up there (it’s on stilts for obvious reasons) to look for a hiking medallion which I had never gotten before and they had them, along with tons of other interesting stuff. The airboats claim to be the largest of their kind in the world and they do hold a lot of people. The tours are guided by knowledgeable park staff – I have always come away knowing more about the lake and ecosystem.

20180525_1104193526334891477723594.jpg
Great shop for souvenirs but you have to walk up the steps to get there. Tables beneath in the shade. (There may be wheelchair access but I didn’t see it.)
20180525_1057568299955460603543896.jpg
The big fan in the back powers the boat so it can get in very shallow places (where the alligators are…)

This park has rustic, old log cabins for rent as well as various types of campsites. The cabins have been refurbished and are very comfortable. You have to rent them well ahead of time because they are very popular.

20180525_1128521825561872920304256.jpg
part of the boardwalk into the marsh

This park is great for birdwatching and we saw a lot of high tech cameras and tripods being lugged around. There is a long boardwalk out into the marsh, and also a canopy walk high in the trees. We went to the end of the boardwalk, but the water was so high that there were few birds to be seen. It was getting hot and the husband was getting tired so we didn’t go up in the canopy this time.

We rode through the park from the south entrance to the north entrance on this visit. The north entrance is not always open – you can always drive out but can’t always come in – so visitors need to check the schedule. It’s safest to enter via the south. Lots of large oaks shading the road, lots of water views, opportunity for kayaking, canoeing, fishing – it’s a great place to get a feel for central Florida waterways. Pack some food. Go there. Enjoy.

20180603_2147062486359373788640056.jpg
My hiking staff with medallions . The dark one with the alligator is from Myakka.

Three Day Story continued…

Day Two

We have lived in Florida for thirty years now and the husband mentioned a while back that he had never been to our closest state park, only twenty some miles away. I have been there numerous times on family outings and could hardly believe he had missed them all. Since we are soon to leave Florida, we had planned a visit to the park with some dear friends on Day Two of this story. We had to leave early, which is why I had asked Joe to come the night before to get instructions on work to be done in our absence. We left, knowing that he would come and get things done. He is that dependable.

20180525_1131446121310399796125007.jpg
A long boardwalk out into the marsh along the Myakka River is an excellent place for bird watching.
20180527_2126342184426748756806688.jpg
The husband watching birds. Well, maybe not birds, watching something. I don’t know.

We returned around noon and found Joe busy setting posts around our parking area, paying attention to spacing and leveling, like he always does. I was glad to see that he had already mowed the lawn because it was starting to cloud up. Our realtor had scheduled an open house for Saturday (Day Three of this story) and I wanted the yard to look as good as it could. We are getting into the time of year when rain often comes in the afternoon and getting grass cut around all the wetness becomes a little summer game. In addition to that normal weather pattern, we had a tropical disturbance bearing down on our coast making it even more rainy than usual.

I had asked Joe not to go up on the ladder when there was no one around to call 911, but now that we were back, it was the first thing he wanted to do. He fully extended the ladder and set it against the trunk of the large oak and went up, armed with his heavy black rope. His plan was to throw the rope into the lower dead branch and pull it free.

20180527_0825221415630118130900940.jpg
My special friend, the ladder, that has it’s own spot at my house and spends a good deal of time here.

It started to rain, but just enough to make the ladder and the tree slippery, not enough to make Joe quit. My job, as I mentioned, is to be ready to call 911, and occasionally to steady the ladder. A couple tosses put the rope where he wanted it and a good jerk brought the smaller limb down with a thud. I say “smaller” but it amazes me how something that looks little way up in a tree looks a lot bigger when it lands on the ground a few feet away from you. Joe was pleased.

If it were not for the approaching roar of serious rain, he would have continued with the job, but no. I think Joe is well aware of the dangers of lightning in Florida since he’s often up on a roof, having to get down quickly. He came down the ladder and we did our best to pile up the debris where it wouldn’t be visible to the hordes of people coming to the Open House the next day. We left the ladder where it was, up against the tree, and ran for shelter.  Joe comes and goes by bicycle or rides from friends, so Day Two ended early with me taking him home in the truck, in the rain.

It’s a three day story and tomorrow is the last day!