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Cairns and LNT?
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David T
(DaveT) - F
sry. on 03/22/2012 18:38:11 MDT Print View

"Maybe they should improve their navigation skills before attempting those places?"

How exclusionary. :)

If someone makes an endless string of cairns leading across an open granite bowl above timberline in the High Sierra, I will reserve the right to disperse them wherever I find them. If someone else wants to leave them up, that's up to them.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: sry. on 03/22/2012 18:42:18 MDT Print View

"If someone makes an endless string of cairns...".

Yep, THAT would be pretty unreasonable -- almost like littering.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Climate makes a difference. on 03/22/2012 19:03:06 MDT Print View

During full-on winter travel, cairns don't help anyone, but it can be impressive how 2 inches of late Spring or early Fall snow can obscure a trail. A trail that was so very clear when someone came through in summer removing cairns because only an idiot would seem to need them.

I've been on non-maintained trails and gotten a little downslope or upslope of the optimal and struggled on a scree or over-steep slope. It is perhaps in that middle ground - hardly seldom traveled wilderness but not a maintained trail either, where cairns add the most value, at least to me. The're a long, tough traverse I love to do except everyone takes a different route down from the last peak. There are a multitude of options to endlessly thrash through the alders instead of a single route which would be improved by each person's passage. I'd like to see a few cairns along that tricky route.

Sometimes I'll set up a few rocks to temporarily mark a food or water cache, but it is subtle, just for my use, and I scatter them later.

Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
Re: Cairns and LNT? on 03/23/2012 06:05:58 MDT Print View

Climate, topography and others, cairn utility depends on several factors and it may be difficult to assess correctly. Some locales may benefit from cairns more than others. It's common that a passage through rocks is very difficult to identify even if you know there is one and a cairn makes a difference. In some places, getting disoriented is more potentially dangerous than in others: cliffs, thick bush where progression may be difficult, rocky terrain where one can get stranded...

Sometimes a route may be obvious one way but not so much the other way. Conditions will vary and an apparently useless cairn may mean a lot in fog or snow covered ground, as already commented.

The moral issue, I understand both sides. Sometimes, it comes down to expectations: if you expect a marked route, you'll be deceived to not find so and it may compromise your plan. If you expect the navigation to be part of the trip, you'll be deceived to have that part stolen. In some regions, marking-free ground may get uncomfortably scarce.

About the issue with bringing more people in, I think publishing a route in a map and/or guidebook makes a lot more to attract people than setting up cairns. People plan routes from home and you can't see the cairns from home. What I mean is a route that's marked just on the ground and not anywhere else won't usually see much use.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Cairns and LNT? on 03/24/2012 20:01:51 MDT Print View

I did a section of the Grand Enchantment Trail through the Superstition Mountain area. Many of the trails are not maintained and often there are long stretches where there is no "trail," just rocky ground. The terrain obscures routes very easily, and finding the trail across a dry wash can be difficult.

Cairns saved my a$$ on several occasions.

Christopher Heine

Locale: Colorado
cairns on 03/24/2012 21:29:24 MDT Print View

They are also beneficial for keeping people on the trail and not tromping all over fragile vegetation. Especially in a place like the southwest where even the soil is 'alive' with cyanobacteria and the extra footprints will destroy it. I also wouldn't wish for someone to get lost in an area with no available water so just leave the cairns alone unless there is a really good reason to get rid of it.

Tim Zen
(asdzxc57) - F

Locale: MI
Re: Cairns and LNT? on 03/24/2012 22:13:46 MDT Print View


Example of cairn

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Cairns, Common Sense, Tolerance, LNT... on 03/24/2012 22:20:10 MDT Print View

Somewhere between people piling up a small mountain -- versus people who will kick away even two small rocks one on top of the other alongside a trail... lies common sense and tolerance!

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
For some reason my wife likes cairns... on 03/24/2012 22:22:17 MDT Print View

Boulder Peak, GNP

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: For some reason my wife likes cairns... on 03/24/2012 22:27:03 MDT Print View

"Just Say No"

--- Nancy Reagan ---

Edited by ben2world on 03/24/2012 22:29:43 MDT.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: For some reason my wife likes cairns... on 03/24/2012 22:36:31 MDT Print View

Its a good thing I didn't propose to Nancy.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Re: Re: For some reason my wife likes cairns... on 03/24/2012 22:38:05 MDT Print View

Good come back. :)

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
repeat on 03/25/2012 00:35:51 MDT Print View

i will repeat it ... if you decide to do whatever with cairns in yr own area, go right ahead .. but do not come here and destroy them ... as david said, in the canadian rockies and bc they can mark the start and descents of climbs or branch trails for climbing approaches ... destroying them puts other parties in danger IMO

and please dont think you can judge quickly what a cairn marks if you dont know, and thus destroy it because you dont feel it has any relevance ... if you arent local, how are you going to know .... leave the cairns or their destruction for the locals here

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: repeat on 03/25/2012 00:43:02 MDT Print View

I'm with eric. Leave 'em be. I could see if people were stacking pizza boxes, but they're often just a few rocks.

How bad would you feel if you discarded some cairns that Roger C temporarily put up to mark his return home?

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Judgement on 03/26/2012 11:30:41 MDT Print View

I think that clearly some judgment is needed. Yes, it may be arrogant to go about scattering cairns. But it is also arrogant to fill an entire bowl with them because everyone has their favorite route, or just thought they knew best, or in fact were idiots, or whatever. When I find several cairned routes all leading to the same place, yes, I'll start knocking over the more asinine ones. There are areas crisscrossed with social trails because some idiot cairned them, when everyone should have just stuck to the main trail. And stacks of rocks every 10 feet is simply another manifestation of the preponderance of morons in our society. If you really think that knocking over such excessive cairns is wrong then, heck, let's just pave the damned trails.

I'm not going to go about knocking over obviously important cairns. In particular, if someone built a 6-foor cairn I'd be likely to assume that there was a good reason the spot needed marked. Or at a junction, or trailhead, or climb start. But I'll also fight idiocy by destroying the work of idiots, picking up their garbage, etc. Because excessive cairns are just another form of littering, really- almost the equivalent of scratching messages into trees or rock faces. A lot of people don't do them to mark a route- they do them to leave a mark. And I'm smart enough to take seasonal trail conditions into account.

So, both extreme positions are asinine. Unfortunately, most other people lack judgment as good as mine. ;)

Edited by acrosome on 03/26/2012 11:35:31 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Judgement on 03/26/2012 17:48:50 MDT Print View

"So, both extreme positions are asinine. Unfortunately, most other people lack judgment as good as mine. ;)"

+1 to your whole post, even if it does mean agreeing with you. ;)

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Re: Judgement on 03/26/2012 18:08:29 MDT Print View


Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Re: Judgement on 03/27/2012 11:50:39 MDT Print View

Heck, I'd be willing to bet that a lot of cairns are built by people who don't even know that they are supposed to be a navigation aid! They probably just think it's what the cool people do...

Kier Selinsky
(Kieran) - F

Locale: Seattle, WA
Re: Re: Judgement on 03/27/2012 12:46:42 MDT Print View

They're not always meant as a navigation aid - that's a wholly modern hiker interpretation. Throughout written and unwritten history they've been used for many other thing such as graves, religious locations, astronomical alignment, and battle strategy. For example, native americans would use them to mark a cliff and, when pursued, use the cairn as an indicator when to turn suddenly and send their pursuer off the cliff.

Here in the PNW I've seen modern cairns set up to indicate a popular hangout spot for the local kids and also to mark a few memorials for people who died in the wilderness.

This is why I guess I'm not so much against cairns - they imbue a place with some history, the intersection of man and wilderness, and are in most cases an aesthetic and low/no impact homage to our place in wilderness.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Judgement - Common Sense, Tolerance and Also Courtesy on 03/27/2012 13:18:48 MDT Print View

"...[T]hey imbue a place with some history, the intersection of man and wilderness, and are in most cases an aesthetic and low/no impact homage to our place in wilderness...

True, many cultures feature stone piles and prayer flags. But I think I would be pretty upset if I encounter this out in the backcountry:

In a place like Tibet, this would be an integral part of local culture. But here in contemporary America, we have no such practice -- and thus no widespread acceptance. I think we should limit cairns to serving as trail markers -- and only in reasonable number and size.

Not meaning to negate anything in Kier's post above, but just a general post...

Edited by ben2world on 03/27/2012 13:23:28 MDT.