Kim Joiner just may be the bravest person ever.
The Lakeland, Florida, woman was as calm as can be when a gargantuan alligator crossed her path at Circle B Bar Reserve over the weekend. Joiner, who shared a video of the chilling encounter on Facebook, remained poised when, just feet ahead of her, the monstrous reptile sauntered across the popular nature preserve’s Marsh Rabbit Run.
"I love Circle B," she captioned the video. "Nature at its best."
Amatuer photographers Kristi and Sean Buckley were on the same path when the massive animal, known locally as "Humpback" or “Mr. Hunchback,” emerged from the tall grass. Kristi, who says she and her husband visit the reserve regularly, told The Ledger this is the first time they had seen him so close.
This time, they say they had been at the reserve since sunrise and were getting ready to leave when they came upon Joiner and a few other hikers who had noticed the alligator acting as if it planned to cross the trail. She says they all waited and provided room for the reptile to find a path out of the water.
"We've seen him swimming around before but didn't actually know his name, and we definitely have not seen him that close before," Kristi said.
Tabitha Biehl, environmental land stewardship coordinator for the office of the Polk County Parks and Natural Resources, says she finds the social media response to the video entertaining.
"I saw some people say 22 to 30 feet in online comments," Biehl told The Ledger with a laugh. "Probably more realistic is around 12 feet. No one's had the opportunity to have a tape measure laying beside him."