One of the Most Challenging Hikes I’ve Done

This is the story of the longest 7.5 miles ever.

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Yesterday, Brother Ben and I faced the 7.5-mile orange trail called the “Triple N Loop” at the Triple N Ranch Wildlife Preserve. The hike turned out to be one of the most challenging hikes I’ve ever done. It wasn’t the most physically demanding hike I’ve done (Florida has zero hills) , but it was mentally demanding with all the natural obstacles involved.

It all started peacefully on a flat, open field, much like the one on our Disney Wildlife Preserve hike last week. At this point, Ben told me that the trail was labeled as “moderately difficult.” I thought, hm…that’s an overstatement. 

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We came across some cows at the beginning, as you can see in the photo above. They were pretty big and donned some decent-sized horns on their heads, but they were very scared of us. Within a few minutes, the whole herd disappeared from our sight.

They did leave their mark on our path with abundant cow pies, and I was lucky enough to step on a fresh one. Yaaaaaay.

Stepping in cow poop was only the beginning. Approximately 1.5 miles into our hike, the trail led us into the forest. The terrain completely changed from flat, solid, and dry to bumpy, unstable, and soggy. It still wasn’t bad at all initially though. It was a fun adventure!

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All smiles before I knew what was coming

My first issue was running into a bunch of spider webs and flailing around like a freak, but that’s just because the feeling of spider webs on me gives me the heebie jeebies. As we went on, the earth beneath us became more soggy and muddy as we approached the creek. Several times throughout the hike, we had to find ways to jump over the creek in order to follow the trail.

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There were also a ton of huge palm bushes, which had baby thorns woven all throughout. Ouch.

I had the expectation that the trail would run through the forest for a mile or so, and then we would be led back to the open field again. Not so, Alison, not so. I started to get hungry and frustrated when the trail kept on leading us through mud that nearly sucked my shoes off, thorny bushes, and dead, fallen trees. It was cute to feel like Katniss at first, but then I started to get irritated.

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At one point— which happened to be at the peak of my frustration— we had no choice but to go ankle-deep in muddy water since there was no dry land surrounding the “trail.” I was whining and pouting like a 5-year-old.

After getting a free mud mask for my feet, I calmed down and told Ben that we should break for lunch.

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I packed peanut butter, banana, honey, and cinnamon sandwiches for both of us, which definitely gave me the brain power to be a little more mature about this hike. I mentally prepared myself for a more challenging and dirty hike than I anticipated. After that, I was ready to go all in.

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Does anyone know what those little tree stump spikes are? They look cool and creepy all the same.

We kept trucking along through thicket and thorn, and my feet still got completely soaked a couple times, but I was fine with it after I finally accepted that this hike was indeed rugged.

Towards the end of the forest portion of the hike, the scariest thing happened.

We were walking through the forest, following the trail, when all of a sudden…

*growwwwwwl*

This was no chihuahua-sized growl. This was a deep, bellowing, menacing growl. Like the kind you might hear on the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios, except this was totally real.

Ben and I looked at each other with big eyes and, without saying anything, quickly walked away from the growling sound that we were just about to approach. All while still trying to follow the trail and not fall into muddy pits.

My heart was pounding and I kept thinking, Lord help us. We just need to keep moving and get away from here NOW.

When we made it back to the open, flat prairie land, I never felt more relieved to see grass in my life. Ben and I didn’t talk about the growl in the moment when we heard it, but later I was like, “sugar honey iced tea, that was scary!!!” We didn’t see the animal, so I thought it might have been a bear that made the sound, but Ben convinced me that it was probably a giant alligator since we were in such a swampy zone.

Also, this video of a growling alligator matches the sound we heard almost exactly.

Anddddd then we were smooth sailing after that ordeal! Praise God. 7.5 miles in 4 hours.

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I feel accomplished, but…never again.

Ben also told me in the car after the hike that he saw a gigantic yellow-brown spider sitting on its web (with a full-sized dragonfly caught in it) right in front of us while we were eating lunch in the forest, but he didn’t want to tell me at the time since I would probably freak out. Smart move. I would have utterly died if he told me when it was right in front of us.

Speaking of not being judgmental of your own hunger cues (in yesterday’s post), I was a bottomless pit after our hike. I ate one snack after the other, even though my brother didn’t seem hungry at all. ‘Tis what ’tis!

We hosed off and showered at home, relaxed, and then joined my cousins for a super late dinner at Bento Cafe. I had a delicious sushi salad with salmon, yellowtail, and eel on top.

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Dessert was eaten at home— cookies ‘n’ cream and mint chocolate chip ice cream!

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I’ll be having a spa day with mom today! Quite a contrast from yesterday, eh?

Hope you all have a fantastic Friday! Don’t get eaten by a wild animal.

So tell me:

Have you ever encountered a frightening wild animal?

What was your most challenging hike? 

Airboat Tour Adventure + Shoulder Burn Circuit Workout

I held an alligator yesterday!

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He’s 4.5 years old and his name is Sergio. The man said to hold his tail firmly, but apparently my grip on Sergio’s torso was a little too much, because then the man said, “If you hold him too tightly there, he’ll pass out and then you’ll have to give him mouth to mouth.”

I opted to just give Sergio pretend kisses. I miss him.

Where did I hold this alligator, you might ask? Wild Willy’s Airboat Tours! We had never been on an airboat before, so my mom and uncle found this company with stellar reviews on Yelp. It was truly an amazing experience! They took us on a laid-back yet informative tour through Lake Tohopekaliga to view the wildlife, which was abundant.

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“She’s going to put this on moves and grooves!”

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A COW (they wander into the shallow parts of the lake from the neighboring pastures)

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A terrible, mega-zoomed-in photo, but do you see the two bald eagles on top!?

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Wild Willy is the one with the sunglasses and camo pants!

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Ugh, it was such a beautiful day. I was totally awestruck by the beauty of nature as we sped through the waters on the airboat. I kinda wanted to cry tears of joy, but luckily, the wind blasting in my face kept my eyes dry and my embarrassment to a minimum.

If you’re ever in the St. Cloud, FL area, definitely check out Wild Willy’s Airboat Tours. We all give it five stars, two thumbs up, and three cheers!

Preceding our afternoon adventure, we had a slow start to the morning. I slept in and did my moves before breakfast, which is a rarity for me! I almost always need to eat something before I feel like a functioning human in the morning. I guess all that sushi the night before stuck pretty well.

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I missed you, burpees! This was a quick yet heart-pounding workout that made my shoulders burn. Those inchworm pushups are deceptively difficult after double unders!

[Super late] breakfast was an ol’ classic: Gina’s cookie dough cereal made with sunflower seed butter and a whole sliced banana. It will never stop being delicious.

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I also ate some random snacks with my fingers including pineapple, broccoli, and mango. I’m like a wild animal hunting for food or something, what the heck?

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Before leaving for the airboat tours, I made myself a sandwich with a two-egg scramble with a boatload [ 😀 ] of spinach and feta cheese. I ate it at around 3PM in the car on our way to the airboats.

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Part two of lunch came after the airboat tours when we decided to try some of their gator bites, aka gator nuggets, served with sweet & sour sauce and a creamy southwestern sauce. They tasted just like chicken nuggets except more chewy and a little less flavorful.

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Looks like mostly fries, but you can spot some of the nuggets in there!

Oh I had a bite of this smoked alligator jerky…”with pork.”

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The gator bites combo came with an ice cream “samich” that I happily ate. I will forever love these things, which are essentially jumbo ice cream Oreos.

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A late lunch called for a late dinner at 9PM again. Last night we dined at a local Latin/Caribbean restaurant, and everything was tasty!

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The world’s smallest house salad

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Grilled shrimp with white rice for me!

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Plus a few bites of my mom’s seafood mofongo (think Latin version of stuffing— made with fried green plantains, pork cracklings, and garlic)

Mofongo— the food you love to say and love to eat even more.

‘Twas a lovely and relaxing day indeed! Today I need to do work, which includes tour guide studying, blogging, letter-writing, bathroom cleaning, reading, and grocery shopping (there are no more bananas in our house and that makes me sad).

Hope you all have a wonderful Wednesday!

So tell me:

Have you ever held an alligator or other wild animal?

What was something fun you did yesterday?

Would you eat alligator?