There it was——the sign.
Seeing it, I flashed a smile. Tank took my picture to remember the occasion. The top of the brown-painted sign read, “FT PICKENS 57 M” and at the bottom, “F.N.S.T. SIDE TRAIL ALABAMA 46 M.”
The Blackwater Connector that links the traditional Florida Trail route to the start of the Alabama Roadwalk was well-maintained and marked by periodic blue blazes. Although less traveled, this section even had a few three-sided shelters that provided relief from the cold wind and rain. Tank and I were separated the second day on the Blackwater Connector but would later reconnect on the Alabama side in the town of Andalusia. The area had a wilderness feel about it and no other hikers or hunters were to be seen.
Just before arriving at the “kiosk,” which marks the end of the Connector, I came to a wall of flame from a prescribed burn that had recently taken place. I had walked for a ways on chard ground, which is not uncommon while hiking through burn areas. Since I had not seen any signs posted, I figured the Forest Service had gone home for the day and was just letting the remaining flame die down. Using my judgment, I decided based on the subtle fire behavior that it was safe to pass. The orangish glow was a remarkable site and an exciting conclusion to the state of Florida. Finally, I had made it to the Alabama state line. After jotting a brief note down in the log book, I camped that night near the kiosk. I wanted to start my second state off fresh the next morning and that’s just what I did.
Florida was now behind me. So many miles had been hiked to get here yet there was so much ahead of me—fifteen more states and five provinces. Looking ahead seemed so daunting! Neither dwelling on the past nor on the future would be beneficial; indeed, it can be distracting. I had to, as my dad used to tell us kids, “take one day at a time.” On a day-by-day basis, it’s one trail or road at a time, one swamp at a time, one hill at a time.
In the book of Matthew, one of the four testifying Gospel accounts, is the familiar verse of which I was reminded: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34). Tomorrow is the land of the unknown; today is to be lived purposefully and to the fullest. For this is a paradigm not only for the trail but for the greater worries of life. Understanding beyond today can be enigmatic. A man called Charles Kingsley once stated, “Do today’s duty, fight today’s temptation and do not weaken and distract yourself by looking forward to the things we cannot see, and could not understand if you saw them.”
Today has an opening sunrise and closing sunset—a theater play all of its own. Wait and take tomorrow when it comes.