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In South Carolina, do we walk around the gator or run for it?

Alligator Alligator in Savannah Georgia. Thinkstock Folder: tr-TrippingGator

Josh Bishop/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sometimes things don't go as planned – and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures from the road.

My husband and I were driving up from Savannah to Beaufort when we came across a wildlife reserve. It was time for a break, so we pulled into the parking lot and took a pamphlet from the display.

Although we were in our city clothes we decided to do the shortest trail; a 3.2 mile hike around a former rice plantation. It didn't take long until we saw a group taking photos of two huge, and I mean huge, alligators taking the sun. They had long tails with jagged ridges that reminded me of a bread knife. Their heads were massive and their jaws looked like metal clamps with yellow teeth.

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"Just don't provoke them," a man volunteered in his confident southern drawl.

We continued along the trail. The flooded land on either side of us was a refuge for flocks of birds; just as the pamphlet had indicated. But a rustling in the tall reeds and the sudden flutter of birds taking wing startled us.

"Are you sure it's safe?" my husband asked.

"There would have been warning, don't you think?"

After a while, I began to wonder why we were the only two people on the trail.

And then – out of the corner of my eye – I saw an alligator scurry into the marsh. "You see! They're more scared of us than we are of them," I said. "And there – look – another one!"

The place was infested, and I noticed our path was narrowing and getting closer to the water. Thankfully, the parking lot was in sight.

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I casually quickened our step but, just as quickly, we stopped dead in our tracks. In the middle of the path was the mother of all alligators – asleep. To get by we would have to walk five feet past its nose.

I clapped our hands hoping to scare it off.

"The guy told us not to antagonize them," my husband said, as he waved his designer scarf at the cars hoping to get someone's attention.

"Maybe we could walk back?" I suggest.

"But what if another alligator has moved onto the path. Maybe they work in teams, like wolves?"

So we waited. And waited. My head was splitting from dehydration. I was getting a serious sunburn.

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"Let's call 911," suggested my husband.

But I noticed the pamphlet sticking out his back pocket: "They should know what to do."

I read out the number while he dialled. "Hello. Yes, we're here in the park. We were wondering if it's cause for concern. There's a 10 foot alligator on the path...I see. I see."

My husband turned to me. "He says to walk around it."

"Does he realize which path we're on?"

"Where on the John Hill Canal path. It's only a little wider than a car. Okay, I see. We'll try that."

My husband covered the mouthpiece, "He keeps telling me to just to walk around it."

"All right, but keep him on the line so that he can hear out last screams," I said, only half joking.

"Hold on the line," said my husband.

With the phone pressed against his ear we walked toward the alligator. With each step my heart pounded harder. Is this was what one felt walking toward a guillotine?

"Have ya made it?" said the man on the other end of line.

"We can't do it," whispered my husband. "Don't you have rangers or something?"

"We do but who knows where they are. How big did you say the thing was?"

"Ten feet."

"I think ya'll should use your own judgment," said the man on the other line. "Whatever ya do ya shouldn't try to out run it because ya can't. Now ya'll have a nice day!"

The line went dead.

We decided to turn back, looking over our shoulders every now and then. Some things just can't be solved by calling a hot-line.

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