I went on a Sabbath photo walk this morning on the La Chua Trail, on the north end of Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. As you approach the entrance, there is a sign that reads:
"Entering Wilderness Area. USE EXTREME CAUTION. Remember: This is NOT a zoo or theme park."Of course, I had already figured that out when I passed by a rattlesnake in the parking area.
The La Chua Trail is known for its wildlife, especially alligators. In fact, I ran into a couple on the trail from Washington state who had taken an 800-mile detour on their trip just to come to this trail to see an alligator in the wild. They excitedly told me that they got to witness an alligator eat its breakfast off the trail not too far from where we were...complete with a lot of thrashing and a barrel roll even! At that point, all I had seen was the back end of a very large alligator on a bank on the other side of the water. It wasn't worth a photograph.
So, I pressed on and came to an area that was a bit overgrown because the part of the trail I was on has been closed until very recently due to all the rain. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous. I continually scanned what I could see of the path in front of me and the banks on both sides, looking for the alligators I could hear croaking all around me.
Not an alligator to be seen.
Then, I heard a whole lot of thrashing and splashing in the water immediately to my left, but could not see what was going on due to the wall of reeds and brush hindering my view. Whatever it was, the amount of noise it was making told me it was quite big. Let's just say that my heart, and my pace, quickened.
I shot nearly 70 photos along the way (it's 3 miles roundtrip) but didn't come back with many that were any good. Here are a few.