Topic

Cairn pollution


Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Home Forums General Forums Philosophy & Technique Cairn pollution

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 41 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #3760248
    Paul Wagner
    BPL Member

    @balzaccom

    Locale: Wine Country

    I got a lot of feedback from a recent blog post on my website about trailwork to Lake Margaret. Lots of people wondering why we are taking down cairns. It’s pretty simple: they’re unnecessary. And part of Leave No Trace is to …you know…Leave No Trace.  I knocked down more than 130 cairns in 4 miles on this trail.  I left three.

    So here’s my summary of cairn policy.

    Should you ever put up a cairn? Before you do, ask yourself this question: Am I lost? If you are lost, don’t put up a cairn. It will just confuse anyone who follows you. If you are not lost, then you don’t need to put up a cairn. You found your way just fine. Please allow other hikers to do the same.

    If you can see where the trail goes, don’t put up a cairn.

    If you can see the trail behind you, don’t put up a cairn.

    If you can see a log cut for the trail, don’t put up a cairn.

    If you can see a blaze on a tree, don’t put up a cairn.

    If you can see a strip of plastic ribbon, don’t put up a cairn.

    If you can see footprints in the dirt or sand, don’t put up a cairn.

    If you can see a path through the grass, don’t put up a cairn.

    If you can see branches outlining the trail, Don’t put up a cairn.

    If you can a cairn ahead or behind you, don’t put up a cairn.

    If it’s obvious where the trail goes, don’t put up a cairn.

    If you are moved to create artwork with natural materials, do it in your garden at home. Don’t put up a cairn.

    And if you do put up a cairn to help you find you way back….take it down on your way back.

    When in doubt, don’t put up a cairn.

    #3760251
    Todd T
    BPL Member

    @texasbb

    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    One more:  If you’re at a peak, pass, meadow, hill, rock, lake, or anything else someone might want a picture of, don’t put up a cairn.

    #3760255
    Chris K
    BPL Member

    @cmkannen-2-2

    I just wrote a long comment to the RMNP staff after discovering a high glacial basin in the park littered with aimless cairns. They were mostly made in the last two years, not for navigation but for fun.

    It seems like it accelerates. Once a few are visible, more people build more, until you have them everywhere.

    They should condemn this activity in the same way they don’t want people building sculptures out of downed trees, marking on aspen trees, and so on.

    #3760256
    Paul Wagner
    BPL Member

    @balzaccom

    Locale: Wine Country

    We have seen signs in some national parks in the southwest that specifically call out cairns as just another kind of graffiti.

     

    #3760257
    R L
    BPL Member

    @slip-knot

    Locale: SF Bay Area, East Bay

    Some places they are very much needed.  Need to find some type of , do not touch these, compromise.  Paint ’em orange or something.  Need some way to differentiate between trail marking(s) and public art.  I’ve made some while bushwhacking but knocked them down on the way back.

    #3760263
    Buck Nelson
    BPL Member

    @colter

    Locale: Alaska

    I think cairns are like many issues, it’s not black and white. I’ve been thankful for cairns far more often than I’ve been annoyed by them, and judging by comments from other people out on the trail, most agree. Rock cairns are made from natural materials and are routinely used where clues of an obviously man-made trail seem to disappear. It’s subjective, but I usually find them helpful, not offensive. Recently on the GDT I was thankful for cairns marking sharp turns that people tend to overshoot, and others that marked the safest places to cross rivers. I don’t mind an established trail looking like a trail, and for me rock cairns are part of that. Trackless wilderness is another matter.

    #3760265
    Paul S
    BPL Member

    @commonloon

    The 99.5% of the time they are unneeded. Scrambling routes about they only time they’re helpful, and then only to confirm that you are indeed on-route, but what if the person who put it there was off route? ;-)  Sometimes they are completely ridiculous. Case in point (this pic was NOT taken in Europe):

     

    2 or 3 rocks?

    The best solution in the case of a heavily used trail corridor is a trail sign (e.g. the little PCT signs); so the masses don’t trample for example a delicate meadow beside a trail.

    LNT!

    #3760271
    Philip Tschersich
    BPL Member

    @philip-ak

    Locale: Kodiak Alaska

    There are a few cairns on the way up Mount Herman built by Eastern Orthodox monks along the route that ends at the cross on the summit. Maybe a half dozen people walk up here in a given year. It’s in a very remote spot on an island in the Gulf of Alaska.  I don’t find these to be that offensive.

    For further context, they are along the route at minute 1:00 in this video:

    #3760272
    DWR D
    BPL Member

    @dwr-2

    If I’m not mistaken, that HUGE cairn in that Paul S photo is one of many marking a route up Mt. Langley. Apparently, this has become a major consolation route for those who can’t get a Mt. Whitney permit in the lottery… a lot of people go up there who are not acclimated for altitude and are not very mountain wise at all… I believe the park service actually built those huge cairns to keep people from getting lost (I seem to remember seeing some kind of plaque dedicating them)… you can seem them from quite a distance, which is the point. I wondered, why so big? And my thought was that they might need to be that big to stick up above the spring snow. I was shocked to see such large cairns, but I guess they server their purpose. The ones that REALLY get me upset are the ones that are supposed to be some kind of art work, I guess… sometimes just a one rock wide cairn that stands 6 feet tall or more… and sometimes dozens of them in some kind of formation… they can look interesting… but very much not appropriate for remote areas in the mountains.

    #3760273
    DWR D
    BPL Member

    @dwr-2

    Honestly, my ‘hard line’ view is this:

    If you can’t find the trail or route without cairns, you don’t belong there. And they take away from the adventure part of finding  your way…

    #3760275
    R L
    BPL Member

    @slip-knot

    Locale: SF Bay Area, East Bay

    Even the best harley rider had to pull out of the garage for the first time.  Cairns are a necessary evil that need to be properly used and understood.  Print up a bumpersticker that reads, Know Cairns.

    #3760306
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    There’s cairns…and then there’s ducks. A duck usually consists of three small rocks. I’ve often found these reassuring and not offensive.

    Groucho Marx did. He famously asked, “why a duck?”

    #3760309
    Chris K
    BPL Member

    @cmkannen-2-2

    I agree the context matters… the basin I visited recently is less than two hours drive for many millions of people. It has wide walkable granite slabs not pitched like a climbers route or fully covered in tundra or willows – an easy hike. These slabs are littered with softball-size rocks to car-size boulders deposited randomly by the glacier, forming a “zen garden” effect. It’s enchanting because it feels designed. That effect is lost as it becomes, piled rock duck by piled rock duck, another human-designed place.

    #3760310
    Axel J
    BPL Member

    @axel-t

    I think the main reason the NPS installed the Langley cairns was to better protect the fragile alpine terrain and crust. Once over Army Pass, Langley is hard not to see so folks just wandered up, creating a multitude of use trails and oh yes, ducks everywhere! Another Sierra trail, Sawmill Pass is no longer maintained so areas with washouts and active vegetation growth, ducks can be very reassuring so that time and miles are not wasted. As for the plastic ribbon, after a couple of seasons, that stuff crumbles into the environment and becomes micro and if your head is not pointed just right, it can be easily missed.

    #3760314
    Bonzo
    BPL Member

    @bon-zo

    Locale: Virgo Supercluster

    I’ve never been in a place where cairns were needed for navigation; this seems to hold true for most other people as well.  I also know just how fragile some biomes can be – the alpine, for example – so I do not threaten such environments any more than is necessary and consequential via my basic presence.  So, for me, it’s not a matter of whether or not I’m personally bothered by something; it’s a question of the impact reaching beyond me.

    #3760323
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    In the Sierra, one tends to find ducks on long barren granite expanses of boulders and scree. The biome, such as it is, isn’t affected by these. Or anyway, a goat passing by, or a snow slide, will have as much or more of an effect. I’m all for lNT and all the rest. That said, the wilderness isn’t a glass case housing delicate treasures. I don’t carve on trees; bears do.

    C0ntext is everything, as was mentioned above.

    #3760325
    Todd T
    BPL Member

    @texasbb

    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    The environmental impact of these things is negligible in the larger scheme of things, but they are very detrimental to the wild feel of these places we’ve set aside for human recreation and education.  In that context there’s a world of difference between what a goat or slide does to the rocks and what a (s)tacky human does.

    #3760326
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    Todd, that’s true and I entirely respect that. A duck is a sign. Humans make signs. Goats don’t. (Well, other than their poop.) We know that a human has been there when a duck is visible.

    Hmm, we bury our poop and make ducks; goats leave their poop and knock over our ducks.

    Pintails chuckle in the reeds.

     

    #3760331
    Dan
    BPL Member

    @dan-s

    Locale: Colorado

    If you are moved to create artwork with natural materials, do it in your garden at home. Don’t put up a cairn.

    Yup, I have several in my garden.  :-)

    #3760339
    Paul S
    BPL Member

    @commonloon

    Yip, you’re right DWR D.  I didn’t know that backstory. Interesting. Thanks.

    It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me since the route is super obvious and hard to get off route. If you do then you just keep heading “Up.”

    We were finishing up the Southern SHR with some peaks and found them pretty amusing.

    #3760345
    Dan
    BPL Member

    @dan-s

    Locale: Colorado

    I’ve never been in a place where cairns were needed for navigation; this seems to hold true for most other people as well.

    I can’t say this would be true for me, in fact many (if not most) of the places I hike use cairns to mark the trail above timberline.  The foot-tread in isolated wilderness is often non-existent and/or less prominent than the game trails. And often there aren’t much in terms of notable landmarks. I’m talking about official cairns placed to mark the trail. Sometimes just stones, sometimes stones with a big piece of timber sticking up.

    Sure, I could generally navigate by dead reckoning, but that really defeats the purpose of having a trail. I often find it faster and more convenient to follow a trail. It avoids problems, like unexpectedly running into impassable terrain and it makes it easier to find connecting trails.

    #3760351
    Paul Wagner
    BPL Member

    @balzaccom

    Locale: Wine Country

    The original trip (that led to the original post) was on behalf of the USFS–trail maintenance.  We did leave three cairns that we determined were helpful/necessary for navigation.  The rest were not.

    #3760353
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    I just ignore extra cairns.  Rarely, after “being lost” I’ll put a cairn to let other people know where trail is.

    The decorative cairns are kind of cool in my opinion.  Better than people spending all their time on their phones playing games.  They go back to natural pretty easily.

    Just my opinion.  Other people’s aesthetics are different : )

    #3760357
    W I S N E R !
    BPL Member

    @xnomanx

    I’m wandering an XC route in the Sierra…and like most XC routes in the Sierra, faint use trails tend to appear and disappear…and I know I need to be headed “that way”…and I’m getting off into the weeds a bit….and then I see a small duck on a rock up ahead…and I say “Oh, cool, there it is…” and I go about my day.

    What’s this nonsense about “not belonging there” if you need cairns to navigate?

    It’s really not a big deal.

    #3760359
    Murali C
    BPL Member

    @mchinnak

    Instead people should spend time cleaning out the horse poop/cow patties on the trails…..make the folks who ride horses pick the poop and carry them – after all the horses are domesticated and not wild anymore:-) That is a bigger mess than the cairns.

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 41 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Loading...