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View Full Version : C.C.C. Signs, Pole Cairns and Safety 1933-style



Waumbek
05-27-2009, 01:31 PM
I came across an article excerpt from the North Conway Reporter, 9/28/1933, praising the joint efforts of the USFS and CCC to "safeguard" the Presidental Range. Three three-man CCC details spent the '33 summer quartered at Lakes, Madison amd the Summit in order to erect ten warning signs "at entrances to dangerous trails" in the Presidentials. The 2' x 3' signs read, in part, "This is a fine trail for hiking but be sure you are in good physical condition (well rested and fed), and have sufficient clothing, emergency food and equipment. Travel above timberline is hazardous--climactic changes are sudden and severe at all seasons..." The "dangerous trails" are not specified. I'm trying to remember where the current "many have died" signs are located and wonder whether they occur in the same locations as the old "this is a fine trail but" signs. Also, being "well fed" in 1933 might have been a bigger problem than now (or maybe not). These CCC details also erected 3' cairns at 50' intervals-- the conspicuous cairns had poles mounted on them--for a total of some 4000 cairns by the end of summer 1933. That's a lot of rocks. I'd love to see a picture of a pole cairn.

Kevin Rooney
05-27-2009, 02:25 PM
... I'm trying to remember where the current "many have died" signs are located and wonder whether they occur in the same locations as the old "this is a fine trail but" signs.

There are probably others, but off the top of my head: at treeline on the Edmunds Path as you're contouring around the cone to the north; and on Valley Way, again at treeline.

Tom Rankin
05-27-2009, 02:26 PM
That's pretty cool!

The CCC was very active in the Catskills, I have a book with stories and pics at home. They planted the 'spooky forest' on Windham High Peak, built lots of fire ponds, shored up stream beds to prevent erosion, built fire towers and lean-tos, helped establish camp grounds, removed invasive plants, on and on...

Waumbek
05-27-2009, 04:44 PM
There are probably others, but off the top of my head: at treeline on the Edmunds Path as you're contouring around the cone to the north; and on Valley Way, again at treeline.

I looked at my sources again, and now I think the CCC's "this is a fine trail but" signs were posted at trailheads not at treeline, although I still don't know which ones. This would mean that at some point after 1933 the thinking shifted to post warnings higher up. There's been something of a constant debate about where to post warnings, low, where turnaround is still feasible but warnings don't carry much punch down in the trees, or higher up, near a summit, where it may be psychologically harder to overcome "summit fever" and abort a trip.

RoySwkr
05-27-2009, 05:14 PM
I looked at my sources again, and now I think the CCC's "this is a fine trail but" signs were posted at trailheads not at treeline, although I still don't know which ones. This would mean that at some point after 1933 the thinking shifted to post warnings higher up. There's been something of a constant debate about where to post warnings, low, where turnaround is still feasible but warnings don't carry much punch down in the trees, or higher up, near a summit, where it may be psychologically harder to overcome "summit fever" and abort a trip.

I seem to recall that at one time there were yellow metal signs at treeline at most or all trails that crossed it, with warning signs with a different message lower down. I'm sure that DM or others can provide photos of both.

stopher
05-30-2009, 06:48 PM
Waumbek, did you find this extract in "Builder of Men" by David Draves? It has part of the same article, and as you mentioned, it says the signs were placed at "entrances" to dangerous trails. Following it is a short account from one of the CCC enlistees who actually hung some of the signs. Apparently, they were replaced each year. He says, "John O'Neil, the forest supervisor for the camp, would tell me what trail to follow." That makes me wonder if maybe the signs were not at the trailhead but possibly some distance up the trail.

I bought Draves's book for my father, who was in the CCC. He worked for a time in Passaconaway Intervale painting gypsy moth eggs, and later went to Moosilauke to clear the R.O.W. for what I guess is now NH Route 118. When Dad died I "reinherited" the book. There's some rich history in it.

Waumbek
05-30-2009, 09:43 PM
Yes, Draves's book is very rich. When you say your father later went to clear the ROW for Moosilauke, does that mean he went to Camp Wildwood (which did build Rt. 118)? Wildwood was open from 1933-37, closed for two years, and then reopened 1939-41. It was located on the Tunnel Brook Road off 112. The men at this camp also built (or restored) the dam that made Long Pond long.

stopher
05-31-2009, 06:44 AM
Yes, Draves's book is very rich. When you say your father later went to clear the ROW for Moosilauke, does that mean he went to Camp Wildwood (which did build Rt. 118)? Wildwood was open from 1933-37, closed for two years, and then reopened 1939-41. It was located on the Tunnel Brook Road off 112. The men at this camp also built (or restored) the dam that made Long Pond long.

I thought it was Camp NF 8 (Warren), Company 134. But you know, I'm not really sure. Despite a couple of tours with CCC and then 12 years in the Army and then Air Force, he seemed to always deliberately use local civilian names and eschew military nomenclature. So for him it was the SE base of Moosilauke and a roadway in the middle of nowhere in the dead of winter. He said the worst part of the work was the ride to and from: bouncing in the back of a stakebed with no suspension system over a frozen, ungraded path.

I took a look at all the data in Draves, to see if I could find any hint of how many of those signs were put up. All I could find was totals for the entire state from 04/33 to 06/42. They installed 5,138 signs, markers and monuments; and maintained 177. So there's your upper limit.:)

Waumbek
05-31-2009, 08:16 AM
It's quite possible that the Warren camp worked from one end, the Wildwood camp from the other to construct 118. And that men from other camps were "imported." In any event, the CCC had a profound influence on WMNF and on the development of Cannon. I believe the NE Ski Museum has either a permanent or rotating display on CCC contributions.