Monday, January 26, 2009

HILLTOP VIEW: Warm thoughts about the CCC


It was 1932, and the United States was in the grips of the Great Depression. Only three years earlier, the stock market had crashed. An astonishing one in four people in the country were out of work; over-farming had ravaged the plains, causing terrifying dust storms to wreak havoc on America’s breadbasket. The country was suffering like never before.

There was a bit of hope, though. In the elections of 1932, President Hoover was defeated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Right away, Roosevelt began implementing the program he called his “New Deal.” As part of the New Deal, Roosevelt signed a bill by Congress called the Emergency Conservation Work Act, which created the Civilian Conservation Corps.

It’s now winter 2009, and the cold, snowy weather has me dreaming of warmer weather. One of my favorite things to do in the summer is camp at Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin’s most popular state park. The park is centered around Devil’s Lake, a large, unusually clear lake. Bluffs, with stunning black and grey quartzite cliffs, in some places over 100 feet tall, loom over the lake.

The park attracts hikers, rock climbers and campers from all over the country and the world. The hiking and climbing at Devil’s Lake is superb, with meticulously constructed quartzite trails that connect the bluffs and lake in a large web.

Without the trails, hiking at Devil’s Lake would be much more difficult and sometimes dangerous. The trails allow a person of average fitness to enjoy the amazing views from the summits of the bluffs and allow rock climbers to access the base of climbs easily.

The trails did not come to be there by chance. They crisscross all over the park, through boulder fields, on top of and under cliffs and to less visited corners of the park. The trails were constructed by men serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps, living in a military style camp at Devil’s Lake between 1933 and 1942.

Men from all over the Midwest came to serve in the Civilian Conservation Corps at Devil’s Lake. The CCC accepted men between the ages of 18 and 25. They lived in buildings of their own construction, were well disciplined and were paid a small amount of money to do arduous work.

They made many buildings still standing in the park, created many of the trails, and placed the rare bolt at the top of a rock climb that climbers still incorporate in anchors today. Most importantly, though, the CCC gave young men with nothing to do a chance to feel like they were working hard for pay.

When World War II began, the CCC was disbanded, because the nation again needed its young men, but the impact the CCC had on Devil’s Lake State Park can still be seen today. I know I’ll see the CCC’s impact when the weather gets warm again.

Garrett Soper is a senior at Onalaska High School.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Well it's been a while since I've put a new post up, and that is a direct result of me not doing much lately, or hearing from anyone who has. I think the holiday's are generally a slow time in the Midwestern outdoor community. Most people are either holed up with their families or using their time off to go someplace sunny and warm -- an especially good option given the above average snowfall and below average temps most of the area has experienced this winter.

With the holidays over, and our cabin fever in full effect my friend Todd and I have been trying to find a weekend to go get outside and do something to kickoff our training for our summer alpine climbing trip. This upcoming weekend is that weekend. We plan on yet another attempt at the Devil's Lake to Parfrey's Glen and back hike. Hopefully we learned enough from our most recent attempt, that we will succeed this time, or at least not have a total epic.