Follow up to Epidemic of Cairns

Around this time last year, I wrote a post about the proliferation of cairns in unsuitable spots, such as national parks. It generated a wee bit of discussion, which I tried to work into my book on cairns. Now, I have a fine follow up to the epidemic in Yosemite. Some pals of mine were hiking there recently and came across one of the cities of rock stacks. They thought it a bit odd and out of place but also felt they needed to respect what others had done.

Just before they had come across the piles, my friends had passed a group of young students (9-14 years old) on an outdoor/environmental education program. When the group arrived at the site, the instructors were clearly upset to see the rampant piles, telling their charges how bad this was. They then let the students destroy every stack of rocks. My friend said you could see and feel the joy the students had in taking down what they considered, or were told, was a desecration of nature.

While I do not like to see such gatherings of rock stocks, I wonder if the students’ wholesale destruction was any better. My friends didn’t stick around to see if the students then tried to “clean up” the area by relocating rocks to more “natural” settings. Nor did they hear what the instructors said. Did they mention the environmental issues and how moving rocks can destroy habitat? Did they mention how building these cairns can lead to others building more and more cairns?

It seems to me that the best way to address this issue is to encourage people not to create similar cairn gardens. If you must build an aesthetic cairn/rock stack, as opposed to a directional one, for whatever reason, try to remember that others will follow. Some may like what you do and copy you. Others will be upset and perhaps destroy them. Either way is bad for the environment.

One thought on “Follow up to Epidemic of Cairns”

  1. I systematically knock down small rock cairns when I find them, especially in the off-trail backcountry. Only exceptions are large, well established cairns that have clearly been in place for a long time. I have built cairns to mark cross country routes, but only if I intend to return the same way.

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