Just a short drive from the overdeveloped madness of South Florida , is a state park called Highland Hammock. The drive and the surrounding town, are not spectacular, but as soon as you enter the park, you enter another world.
Highland Hammock is one of the oldest state parks in Florida. There are trails all around the park. And all of the trails are so different. So beautiful. So healing. There are Oak trees that are estimated to be over 1000 years old. Cypress swamps, and wildlife, we saw so much wildlife.
Some of the park feels very prehistoric. Especially the Cypress swamp. Early in the morning on a hike, I spotted a cottonmouth, a very venomous snake, swallowing a large fish. We watched in fear and amazement, as the snake unhinged its jaw, and swallowed this fish.
We camped in one of the primitive campsites. As the sunset, with the clear sky, and the new moon, the stars were bright and beautiful. I saw a shooting star. I made a wish.
The whole trip was so restorative. We hiked slowly on the trails. We gazed up at the stars. We hugged trees. I did Restorative yoga everyday, (which my son called “sleeping”), and we ate good nutritious food.
My daughter trying her hardest to do YOGA
We saw deer, pigs, hawks, osprey, owls, turtles, alligators, snakes, opossums, armadillos, and even two river otters.
Being in nature is so healing. Like a soul shower. We feel balanced.
Nature is the best teacher. We can never have enough nature.
My daughter turned two last week and to celebrate, not only did we have a fun little birthday party, but we also spent two days camping and canoeing at a place called Fisheating creek.
Fisheating creek is about two hours northwest of where we live, and it is truly a wild and sacred place. This time of year, the creek is high, and I mean really high. I didn’t know what to do when we arrived and the trail I usually take was completely underwater. In my mind, I had planned out that we would be camping under some oak trees way down the trail. Well, this knee-deep water covering the trail, told me that sometimes plans change.
Anyways, it took a little while to figure out what to do..I have been camping many times at fisheating creek, but never at this time of year. This place has seasons, wet season and a dry season, and coming out at this time of year is a completely different experience.. In summer and fall, the water levels are high, sometimes extremely high, and the mosquitos, are everywhere. So are the alligators. In winter and early spring, the water level is much lower.. the mosquitos aren’t nearly as bad, and the alligators, on colder days you wont even see them.
We walked around, swatting mosquitoes, right away we saw a huge alligator and a huge black snake slither right in front of us.. My sweetheart was a little freaked out, I know he was wondering “why are we here, this wild swamp is insane.” My daughter stepped on a fire ant mound. Actually we all did. And getting bit by those tiny ants is awful. Ant bites burn and sting and hurt and itch!! It seemed like the camping trip was going to be rough..
During that time, we got a phone call from some friends who said they wanted to come and camp with us.. They were on their way.
Then we ran into a man who has a small cabin out on the creek. I had met him a few times in the past, but this trip was the first time we really talked. He is close to my age, a real country boy with a strong southern drawl, and big pick up truck.. but he is a man full of surprises, and he loves the land. To him, the swamp is home. The trees, the animals. He offered to show us some good places to camp, and invited us to camp right on his land… We went exploring with him, he had lots of stories and wisdom to share. He talked to us for hours about the seasons, the animals, and he invited us to go canoeing with him. AWESOME.
Anyways, our friends arrived and soon after, the rain began. We all ran to our cars, and took shelter as thunder roared overhead. We hung out in the safety of our cars until the thunderstorm passed.. and once safe, we made a fire. Although it was dark, it was hot outside. We didn’t need a fire to stay warm. But I needed a fire for my spirit. Feeling the energy, I danced around the fire. It was so hot, it was like a sweat lodge!
We sat around the fire, occasionally swatting mosquitoes, talking story, until our eyelids became heavy.
We woke up as the sun was rising and went on a walk… The land, the colors, the sounds, the smells, everything was so beautiful.
Then we went on a very long canoe trip out to a place called Paradise Lake. I saw some of the biggest alligators I have ever seen. And there were a few times, when they were a little too close to the canoe. Heart pounding.. but for the most part, alligators stay away from people.
My spirit felt happy. And as muddy as I was, my body felt cleansed. My Energy light.
The camping trip was completely different from what I had imagined. And even better.
I woke up this morning, slowly stretched my body awake, and realized I had a large twig tangled in my hair. My legs are all scratched up and my feet are sore. But I feel good. Two days of pretty intense hiking, snorkeling, and blackberry picking.
On Saturday, we woke early, headed to the other side of the island, ready to rough it and climb down a very steep mountain, to some old abandoned vineyards, situated right next to the beautiful Azorean sea. It was apparent right away, that we were the first people in a very long time to make the hike. What used to be a small trail was now heavily overgrown with cane and blackberries.. but we continued.
After what felt like a very long time of really rough and steep hiking, we made it to the vineyards, and peaked inside a small and long abandoned home. Part of the roof had collapsed, but there was one room that still had a roof. We went inside and checked it out. It still had some old furnishings, a reminder of how life used to be. Inside a little drawer, I saw a magazine from 1959 perfectly in tact, It was a “dirty” magazine.. so I didn’t take any photos.. HA!
The ocean was rough, wild, and beautiful. We had a relaxing picnic.. but I kept looking up at the top of the mountain and DREADING our return hike. It was steep, it was exhausting, it was hot. But it was fun. ADVENTURE! I found a lot of wild oregano.. and of course we stuffed ourselves with blackberries.
Yesterday we headed to a different side of the island, hiked down to some deep and beautiful tide pools and enjoyed some really good snorkeling.
There were so many blackberries on the hike, so on the way back up the mountain, we filled up my daughters beach bucket with berries. I also picked some wild mint.. And last night we enjoyed blackberry cobbler, drank mint tea, and put aloe vera all over our scratched up legs..
Take a Hike, and I mean that in a good way! HA! ~Tiff
Saturday morning, I woke up early, to a kiss on the cheek and fragrant wild flowers on top of my chest. Saturday was my 38th birthday. My solar return. And by 7am, the solar rays were already beaming, offering us the warmest day of the year.
We woke early, because we had to go up into the mountains and meet a friend of my sweetheart, a farmer, who was harvesting potatoes. He gifted us with 40 pounds of potatoes!!! That is a lot of potatoes. So fresh. So good. So nourishing. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!
Since we were already on the other side of the island, we went to my favorite spot to collect water. Fonta Clara in Santo Espirito.This artesian well water is the most delicious tasting water I have ever had. It is a bit of a hike, and much harder on the way back up, with full water jugs. But it is so peaceful and beautiful there. And that water, mmm refreshing. Well worth the effort.
After a nice lunch, we decided to go to the beach, and we went swimming. It was the first time this year that I was brave enough to go in the slightly FREEZING water. (I got spoiled living in South Florida and Hawaii). The water was refreshing, early afternoon, the sun was still getting warmer.
In the late afternoon, I taught a very special yoga class. The first of 6 special “Yoga At The Natural Park” yoga classes I will be teaching this summer. The classes are in partnership with the Azores Geoparque. Not only was this an outdoor yoga class in a beautiful, remote, peaceful location, but we also had a very knowledgable scientist from the Geoparque give a talk about the formation of the area and the history. We did some exploring, and then we did some more exploring, through YOGA.. It was so awesome. Beautiful. Wonderful. HOT! (My slightly sunburned nose is proof).
As if all that birthday magic wasnt enough, I came home surprised to find a house full of flowers, friends, and family. A sweet little birthday party, a really good ginger and cinnamon cake,and some ukulele playing.
With rays of LOVE, beams of GRATITUDE, and lots of potatoes. -Tiff
One of my favorite things about living on this tiny island is the abundance of green medicine. Nearly everyday, I find and wild harvest herbs, for tea, for cooking, for my hair,my skin, and even for drying and smudging.
We just went on a nice long hike, and I felt so happy to find and wild harvest a good amount of Oregano and Chamomile. Mmmm smells so good.
Oregano is a powerful herb. Oregano is full of antioxidants and has antiviral, antifungal and antimicrobial properties.
Chamomile helps relieve anxiety, mild depression,and insomnia. It also helps cure eczema, eases menstrual cramps, and gives a real boost to the immune system.
Celebrate the magical green world that sustains us.
I am very excited to announce that I am co-hosting a yoga retreat on the island of Santa Maria, Azores, with a beautiful Kundalini yoga teacher who lives in Dubai. This will be a special retreat for many reasons, LOCATION is magical! The people are magical. And what could be better than a retreat that combines Kundalini yoga and Vinyasa Flow. And Hiking everyday!!!
We have worked very hard to provide the cheapest possible retreat, in hopes that many like-minded friends can join us. This is sure to be the trip of lifetime! If you have any questions please email me firstname.lastname@example.org
After 3 long days of travel, we finally made it home. I was pretty much a zombie when we arrived, I was going on 2 days with less than 2 hours of sleep. And travelling with 2 kids!!
We had three long layovers, in Montreal, Toronto, and in Ponta Delgada. The super cheap tickets came at price. 😉
We took a small propeller plane to our island, and when we finally arrived, I finally slept. We all slept for 15 hours. When I woke, I was greeted by the warmth of the sun shining in through the window. The sky was bright and blue. It was a warm spring like day. The island was welcoming us home.
Enjoying the magic of the day, we went on a hike, one of my favorite hikes on the island. We layed on a soft bed of grass, did some yoga, ate some snacks, and just enjoyed all of it.
Today my son is back at school, the weather is chilly, and I am home, unpacking, settling in, and looking back on our 5 weeks of travels with gratitude, and excited for the adventures that await.