I’m going to try out a new little article on this blog: I plan to publish it once weekly and it will mostly be pertaining to opinions on the way we all conduct ourselves around natural areas. It’s not ‘yes’ or ‘no’ per say, more just my opinion on it (hence the name). I hope you all enjoy – if there’s a subject matter in which you’d like me to talk about, feel free to contact me at the contact link above or over on Facebook under the same name.
They’re a funny sort of thing. Unless you drive by the one on Route 11 in Farmington, NH, they’re usually a small stacked rock structure, mostly flat rocks, one on top of another. According to history (and possibly purists), these are not true cairns. Original cairns have a Scottish origin and were to mark a burial ground, used for ceremonial purposes or to mark a landmark. In more modern making, depending on where you’re located, they’re either still used to mark a landmark or to symbolize peace – somewhat of a far cry from its origin when you think about it.
To some extent, depending on where you find them, these cairns are actually meant to keep you on trails. In the Presidential Range (NH), some of these cairns mark where your path runs and helps to direct winter hikers when they’re unable to see the true footpath. On top of Bauneg Beg ~ North Peak (ME), there were once bunches of these – yes, some made for fun, but originals were there to mark the top of the peak. After a recent visit, it’s been found that vandals have gone and toppled the rocks down. These rocks are important for hiker safety, and it should be common sense that you don’t go and knock them over.
It’s quite obvious when you hunt other sites that probably 75% of people dislike seeing rock cairns anywhere in nature that you can tell have been modernly made. From a few people, I’ve read that it ‘shows that people have been here’, and while I get the main point, there’s so much more that detracts from an area to say that people have been there than rock cairns, but I guess that’s beside the point and for a different post. I understand the dislike, and for most people posting on websites, these are rarely the people at fault for vandalizing historic cairns. But there are idiots who feel like rock cairns, not matter how historic, no matter when made, no matter if they’re serving a purpose, have to come down. Please, just leave rock cairns alone! If it’s meant to be there, it’ll withstand weather conditions and stay there for as long as nature chooses. If not, like the ones above, they’ll be dismantled on their own.
Though rock cairns are sweet, nice, and usually bring a peaceful side out of most people, in most national public land areas, it’s illegal to build them. And while I thoroughly love seeing them from time to time (shh! Don’t tell the rangers I said that!), it’s asked that you do not build them. I know, I know, it takes away from some of the fun of summer hikes and adventures to the river or mountain… Yet, it’s better to stay away from getting a fine or going to jail, just keep that in mind.
Have fun out there and be safe!!