Water dances around my fingers to a song set eternally on repeat. I watch as my subtle motions trigger a series of cascading ripples. From the point of their inception, the rhythmic circles steadily grow, expanding outward to cover more surface area across the placid surface. I could only have so much of an impact, for nearly as quickly as they came, the disturbances blended seamlessly back into the folds of the lake.

Image – Twilight Forest

Without the work of others, my ripples would never have existed. The 12-acre lake I rest my bones beside was the product of hard work and a vision for the future. In 1938, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) troop #3422 cut out 12-acres to build the lake, erecting an earthen dam to keep the waters in banks. The stone bathhouse and diving tower show their handprints as well, not to mention the very roads and parking areas still used in the park today.

Image – Benches alongside Hanging Rock Trail built by the CCC

President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the CCC in 1933 as an attempt to revive the economy from the Great Depression. Roosevelt believed that the country’s most valuable resource was its people, and under a common goal could accomplish incredible feats. Thus, the CCC’s mission was to conserve the natural resources of the land by utilizing young men between ages 18 and 25. In total, the CCC employed almost three million people and planted over two million trees. They additionally controlled the erosion on over 20 million acres of land and constructed 97 thousand miles of forested roads and trails. Their cumulative efforts reclaimed over 84 million acres of agriculture.

Image – Collection of CCC photos from Hanging Rock museum

  On July 2nd, 1935, 243 CCC workers arrived in the Hanging Rock wilderness where they remained for the next seven years. By the end of 1935, approximately 27,000 CCC men were stationed all across North Carolina. CCC #3422 were managed by both the Army and the park service simultaneously, working long hours of manual labor. They were allowed to participate in recreational sports and education outside of working hours, even being allowed trips on the weekend to encourage their passions and motivations.

Image – Building the Park

In constructing the park, the men of the CCC carved out a surface mine to harvest native stones. They cleared out many of the trees and topsoil around the lake and visitors center, proceeding to remove the quartzite with sledgehammers and jackhammers. Many men were tasked with using dynamite. One member, Lyman Hall, recalls that “if President Roosevelt hadn’t done this, we wouldn’t have recovered so quickly from the Depression.” Percy Fulk, another member of CCC #3422, remembered how “we brought that region to reality.” He noted the incredible sense of family and brotherhood felt in that space, the communion between each other and within the folds of the wilderness.

Image – Observation Tower on Moore’s Knob

I see their reflections here in these waters. The faces of young boys, uncertain about their future, committing themselves to physical reclamation and personal freedom. Shrouded in wildness they grew closer to themselves, leaving lasting marks on the fabric of this space. I envision myself in their shoes, busting quartzite with oversized hammers or envisioning the placement of this lake. While I certainly enjoy separating myself from the commotion of the human world, it becomes impossible to root oneself in space if that world is not recognized. This water, while natural, was not a part of this landscape during the days of the Saura, nor when the park was first established. We often appreciate the beauty without understanding the circumstances, an act which unfortunately distances our perceptions away from enlightenment. I seek not to squander my thoughts but to broaden them, to make this space my home in all of its variety. After all, who are we if not connective?

“You made me swear I’ll never forget. I made a vow I’d see you again”

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