Modern cairns are an eyesore and cultural appropriation. But don't mess with legitimate historic or precontact rock features. You will incur the wrath of vengeful spirits if you do that shit!


Are cairns really any different then tagging? I find the two closely in line if not directly parallel.



True enough. And I also agree with Rich's points: #1 in particular is most important, since cairns are a simple and effective method of communicating information in the wilderness (e.g. "the trail is over here", or for use in emergencies: "I went THIS way") and displaying too many of them becomes the equivalent of jamming signals so that potentially vital messages are lost in the noise.


@1 Nearly every culture has used cairns at some point. They very word "cairn" is Gaelic. So which culture are cairn-builders appropriating exactly?


"pristine nature" is a social construct, a product of a colonizing mindset. I am not a cairn fan but I don't mind in fact I enjoy being reminded that seemingly obscure locations have been occupied and used for 20,000 years to provide a living for people who are still here now!


File under "white people problem."


This is why people hate city dwelling liberals. And they are right to do so. We are awful judgmental absolutists who love to stroke their justice boners in public. I'm pretty sure 4 more people just voted for Trump because of this post.

Signed, a city dwelling liberal.


Bring on the #cairnremoval videos of self-righteous citizen-vigilantes triumphantly tearing down and scattering those trail and site marking cairns built by park service employees and their supervised trail-maintenance volunteers.


"I don't go into nature to see the work of man.
I go into nature to see the work of god."

What grand Fool was it that placed us on this giant blue Rock, then?
(OMG -- what if you encountered Cristo,* out there in Nature?!)

Besides, who amonst us can even fucking read these things?!
(Assuming said cairn was put there by The People in Charge.)
(Do they carry legitimacy notices?)

*"the work of Art is a scream of freedom"


I have always classified cairns in the same broad category as graffiti, but both are very low on the list of things to worry about. Petty annoyance, not existential outrage.


I do wonder sometimes why we humans think our embellishments and likenesses make anything (and evidently everything, in most people’s minds) better. “Oh, you know what would make this stream better? Either a picture of it with my face or a stack of rocks. Me, me, me, me!!” Cairns may be a mostly harmless manifestation of it, but it is the tip of a massively annoying iceberg.


The rise of cairns, at least in Washington, seems to be largely correlated with the rise of people partaking in cross country (off-trail) travel, which itself is the result of much more readily available beta (route information) online. The majority of cairns I see are constructed with the goal of marking an established but unofficial route, but this makes them no less of an eyesore. If you are hiking off-trail you should be prepared to navigate on our own, which is both an enjoyable challenge as well as an important deterrent for those without the necessary skills and preparation.



Establishing and using unofficial "social trails" is far more damaging to the environment than building cairns alongside official, maintained trails just for the hell of it.

Stay on the damned trails. Sure, they're crowded. There are a lot of people these days getting all dressed up and charging into the woods, just like you-- and that should be food for thought, not something you're allowed to run away from once you've convinced yourself you're better than them.

Oh, and keep all of your damned dogs on-leash, too.


You know,it screams desperation when your article is about a bunch of fucking rocks stacked up in the woods...God forbid I tell you about homeless bums with tents on those trails doing drugs or having sex or pissing and shitting and leaving trash and needles...but Oooo! Rock formations are bad! Fuck outta here with that shit...


@13 Scold, scold, scold, scold, scold, scold... harumph harumph!


This little piece sucks almost as bad as the one by the guy who couldn’t handle that people use the expression “no worries.” I’ve never stacked rocks, but I like to make a kick-ass driftwood hut at the south beach of Discovery Park every once in awhile. Sorry for fucking up nature for you—that type of thing is my way of having fun hanging out in it. The people at the Washington Trails Association haven't gotten back to you yet because this is fucking stupid.


I like to pile up a whole barge of rocks.


Methinks this isn't about the building of cairns, but rather the democratization of the building of cairns.
Cairns=good, until alla those damn kids try it.

What's stopping the FS from putting up some damn signs?

Although, if the erosion argument holds water (heh), i will retract my statement.



Well sure, but we're waaaay past that at this point, aren't we? I mean fuck's sake man go read the post again.


What do you call a skinny woman who stacks rocks in the wilderness? Cairn Carpenter.


Cairns have a role that seem to be lost in this debate (which also occurred recently at Backpacker magazine, and other places). Basically, people got carried away. They have built them because they are fun to build, as opposed to the real purpose, which is to keep people on the trail. It isn't always easy to stay on the trail. When there is snow on half the trail, it is very easy to miss a switchback, or think the trail goes somewhere else. Do that enough times, and you have built your own version of the trail, which thrashes nature way worse than a few cairns. Likewise, in rocky or swampy areas, it is often difficult to find your way even when there is no snow. Eventually you get there, but again, that often results in stomping on flowers, or worse yet, a plant like heather, which takes years to recover.

So yeah, those cairns can be annoying. Sometimes they are even in the wrong place (which is really fucked up). But they are not nearly as bad as something that is a shitload more common: people getting off the trail. In many cases this is not because they are confused, it is just because they don't give a shit. They have no idea the damage they are doing to the local environment. The forest service (or park department) can only do so much (they can only put up so many of those little "don't walk here" signs). People should be aware that generally speaking, the easier it is to wander off trail, the more damage you are likely to do. Go off trail in the deep woods and it really doesn't matter (you could cut your way through with a machete and it would grow back quickly). But stomp around the pretty meadows and it eventually looks like shit. Stay on the trail, especially up high. Oh, and don't pick the flowers, ever.


Leave no trace. It isn't super hard to understand.


Fuck You Rich, I have made 5 stacks. Got pics too. Fuck You!

"Leave No Trace"? Every time you go, you leave a trace. Footprints, trash, car emissions to get there. Fuck You.

@20, +1


If the cairns bother you that much take the advice from your previous article and go hike granite mountain in winter


Shorter @23:

"Well, SOMEBODY is going to fuck it up - might as well be me."


Good god. If you have the resources to build a sanctioned cairn, you have the resources to install a perfectly biodegradable wooden sign. "Boy in my day all these stinky casuals didn't do cutesy things in the woods, they cared about important stuff like nature porn and bragging rights!" That's nice grandpa, enjoy your nap.

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