Cairns: Messengers in Stone


Published by The Mountaineers Books
Order a copy from an independent book store.  Here is a link to, which lets you order from independent book stores across the country.

Buy the book from me ($18 – Takes you a Square account. Includes shipping, taxes, and a signature. Shipments only in US.)



“Williams’ research in teasing out the stories of the silent rock sentinels offers readers an interesting way of connecting with the landscape and stimulating the imagination. This quirky book is worth a look.”
– Barbara Lloyd McMichael, Bellingham Herald

“Charles Dickens once wrote that ““No one who can read, ever looks at a book, even unopened on a shelf, like one who cannot,” and having read Williams’s book, I would say the same thing about cairns: once we learn, in this deceptively modest volume, how to read cairns, we will never look upon them the same way again.”
– Russell Potter, Arctic Book Review

“Cairns: Messengers in Stone is a really cool book, whether you enjoy connecting the rock piles like dots on your hike, are curious about the various architectural styles of cairns, are fascinated by geology, or simply intrigued by rock pile lore the world over.”
– Kurt Repanshek, National Parks Traveler

Not a review but a nice article about cairns and my book appeared in the Bangor Daily News on December 13.

About the Book:
At the most basic level, a cairn is a pile of rocks. But this definition doesn’t do justice to the myriad shapes and sizes of cairns found around the globe. Nor does it convey the many reasons that people have piled up stone for thousands of years. Yet, when you see a cairn, you know what you are looking at. You know that someone has taken the time to gather rocks and assemble them into a recognizable shape that carries an enduring message. It tells the visitor, you are here, you are not alone. As has happened with so many hikers and travelers, nothing is more reassuring than coming across one of these wonderful heaps of stones.

But cairns are more than trail markers. They been used to mark territorial boundaries, good hunting grounds, places of danger, burial spots of dead relatives, and locations to seek good luck. When we didn’t all carry cell phones or GPS units, cairns were a timeless means of communication.

In Cairns: Messengers in Stone, I tell the stories of cairns, from the high Arctic to Walden Pond to the Zuni Pueblo. I weave in geology and ecology; raise the question of whether to cairn or not to cairn; discuss how to transfer your fatigue to a cairn; and explore the cairns of tragedies. Quirky and thought provoking, my book shows that cairns are more than a random pile of rocks, they are rich in stories and meaning, and pretty darned nifty, too.