We’ve been to this reserve several times and it has always been rich with habitat and wildlife. This adventure was no different. 

It’s a 2.5 mile trip around the reserve. The paths are flat and perfect for walking or even a bike. Our double umbrella stroller did pretty good and only got caught up on a few tree roots. 

We started out from the main building. Inside there’s restroom and some nice animal exhibits including some fish tanks. 

Shady Oaks is the first trail. Just as the name suggests this is a flat shady trail. Live Oaks sprawl out across the path shielding it from the hot sun. We crossed through a small meadow area with hundreds of newly planted trees. We wouldn’t have noticed otherwise but they were all marked with little orange flags. Despite our best efforts the armadillos eluded us. Ella carefully explained the ins and outs about them and why they use their shells. She was surprisingly knowledgeable and I don’t know where she learned so much about armadillos. 

Now we have reached our next trail, Alligator Ally. This path is adjacent to Lake Hancock. There’s a thick layer of palms and jungle-like flora along the lake shore. Perfect cover for alligators. 

Here’s a peek of the lake through the palms. I am standing about five or six feet from the lake when I took this picture. 

On the other side of the path is a swampy wetland. Scurrying quickly at the back of the swamp was a large raccoon. We also watched a water snake swim paths through the shallow swampy waters at the base of the Cypress trees. I can’t forget to mention the turtles! 

Alligators are wild here. You’ll see them swimming in the lake, sunning on the banks and lurking in the swamps. Here are two big alligators that were within a few feet of the trail! 

I lost track of how many alligators we saw, over 25. It’s crazy to think about how many others we walked straight past and never noticed. 

About three quarters through Clara had had enough of the stroller. I popped her into the front pack to finish the hike. She was just tired and slept the rest of the journey. 

As we finished up on Alligator Ally we spotted 2 Great Blue Heron nests, saw an Osprey eating some lunch, and had a close squirrel encounter. 

We turned right and towards the sun for the final stretch. Here we spotted a group of Sandhill Cranes amongst other bird friends. We met this little snake in the final stretch of the walk. 

The trails are littered with professional photographers and their giant lenses. If you didn’t have little ones it’d be easy to spend an entire day here, the more you look the more you find. 

We finished our hike, we all survived and enjoyed another picnic. Today’s picnic views: 

During lunch Kris mentioned his upcoming trip to China. Ella immediately spoke up to tell us that 1. Dragons live there. But they are only pretend and don’t have real fire. 2. Panda bears live in China. She’s a wealth of random facts these days. 

Refueled Kayleigh and Ella spent a few minutes climbing a low lying Live Oak branch. 

Our afternoon was spent at the pool. There was an intense game “space rangers who are rescuing space beavers next to the volcano on the purple planet because they were bad in the car and their parents left them behind” 

They love driving the golf cart to the pool and around the neighborhood in search of alligators and birds.