Seems like cairns are all over the place right now. First, they appeared in a New Yorker article (Feb 11 & 18; unfortunately the story is behind a pay wall) by Ian Frazier titled The Toll. The story focuses on the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. In the story, Frazier reports on zookeeper Doug Schwartz, who erected cairns on the beaches of Staten Island, and has been doing so for many years. Sandy had destroyed Schwartz’s “sculptures or cairns or whatever you call them” but like many devoted to cairns he had vowed to rebuild. You go Doug!
And then in the March/April issue of AMC Outdoors the publication of the Appalachian Mountain Club, there is the article, Stone on Stone: A Natural and Social History of Cairns by Michael Gaige. Like the publisher of my book, Mountaineers Books, the AMC focuses on the “protection, enjoyment, and understanding” of wild places. In their case, it’s the forest, mountains, and trails of the northeast. Gaige’s article nicely weaves together many of the issues that concerned me in my book, Cairns: Messengers in Stone. As he writes “the tradition of stacking stones came not from building a monument to one’s self. It was to build for others–a memorial or a navigational aid. The intent lacked ego; it was just the opposite, an act of service.” It is always a pleasure to find someone else interested the deeper stories of cairns.