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Opinion: Calling for an end to cairns

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Opinion: Calling for an end to cairns

Postby TahoeJeff » Mon Jul 20, 2015 4:16 pm

Interesting article on a topic discussed here before:

http://www.hcn.org/articles/a-call-for- ... ce=twitter



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Re: Opinion: Calling for an end to cairns

Postby maverick » Mon Jul 20, 2015 4:40 pm

HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Opinion: Calling for an end to cairns

Postby ERIC » Wed Jul 22, 2015 11:46 am

This was posted on our FB page. Thought it was pretty funny.
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Re: Opinion: Calling for an end to cairns

Postby Cross Country » Wed Jul 22, 2015 12:34 pm

I used to go from Laurel Lake to Edith lake on a regular basis. Everyone I ever read on HST wrote how difficult it was to get to Edith from anyplace. For me it was easy From the South ridge On the approach to Edith was a section of cross country that when going up you could see where to go, but comming down you couldn't see exactly where to go and you had to go a VERY specific route. The first time we went to Edith we came in from the North side. It was VERY difficult and 3 days. The second time we came in from Laurel (2 half days) I couldn't see how to navigate the most diffulct portion of the route. We got into a lot of brushy steep terrain. It was as everyone (later) wrote. From Edith Lake and going up from the lake to the ridge you could clearly see the best (and almost the only reasonable) route. I knew that when I would come back the next year I would have the same problem. In a 20-30 minute section I put cairns (ducked) on the route. I would bet that nobody but me would ever used this route. In fact here on HST my suggested route to Edith is not this one. I believe one would have to have used it with me to use it at all. I don't like to see cairns almost anywhere I've seen them. They are an eyesore and almost alway unnecessary. I feel CERTAIN that my cairns were as close to necessary as it gets. I think all of this subject to be only a matter of preference and opinion. I believe I would always do what I did in a like situation.
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Re: Opinion: Calling for an end to cairns

Postby balzaccom » Thu Jul 23, 2015 8:10 am

I've occasionally left a cairn to guide be back to a key point on a return...but I always take them down on my way back.

But I am not one of those who knocks down every cairn I see in the backcountry. Who knows? Some of them may be from Cross Country last week....some of them may be from a hiker 75 years ago.
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Re: Opinion: Calling for an end to cairns

Postby Cross Country » Thu Jul 23, 2015 10:19 pm

Not likely from me. The only ones I put down were in the short distance that I mentioned. To me they were absolutly necessary. I think that should be the only excuse to do so, but that's just my opinion.
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Re: Opinion: Calling for an end to cairns

Postby Tom_H » Wed Aug 05, 2015 1:35 pm

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Re: Opinion: Calling for an end to cairns

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Aug 06, 2015 1:40 pm

Cairns that mark critical routes (especially on off-trail passes) are very useful and serve a purpose. Cairns that simply say "I was here" are simply egotistical.

Cairns are helpful when a trail is covered with snow so you can still find the trail. Very useful when winter ski touring. A cairn on a trail is no different than a trail sign. The trail is constructed so the cairn has its place too. Like anything, cairns can be overdone. You should never casually put up a cairn. On some off-trail routes everyone has put up cairns when they think they have the "right route" resulting in a mish-mash of cairns that are not helpful in the least. If I see this kind of over indulgence, I will knock down cairns. On the other hand, if I have used a cairn and it was informative and helped me find my route, I leave it so others may do the same. If a huge cairn really annoys me I can report it to the authorities and they can decide to take it down or not. (side note- SEKI ranger told me when I got my permit a few weeks ago that they caught a fellow hauling cement. He was constructing a shelter in Keweah Basin to ride out the "end of the world"! There still is a small concrete pad up there - I did not find it. Now this, is an illegal structure an order of magnitude worse than a cairn!) And then there are very historical cairns. Most of these are quite elaborate.

Overall, I am pretty neutral on cairns and definitely do not feel it is my place to play "wilderness cop". A cairn is an above-timber marker, just like a tree blaze that marks a route in timber. So do anti-cairn people also think tree blazes that mark trails should be eliminated? Or that all trail signs should be eliminated? Or that even trails should be eliminated?

Animals mark their routes with their poop; humans use cairns and trail signs.

A bigger philosophical/practical question is whether a use-trail (often marked by cairns) is more or less destructive than everyone making their own little route (what happens when cairns are removed). The former concentrates impact; the latter impacts a much larger area, but less intensely.
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Re: Opinion: Calling for an end to cairns

Postby oldranger » Sat Aug 08, 2015 8:59 pm

While traveling way off trail between upper Crowley and Box Canyons in SEKI I encountered a huge pyramid shaped cairn. When I showed the location on the map to the then park Historian, Bill Tweed, it took him all of 5 seconds of thought to realize it was a corner marker for the original boundary of Sequoia National Park!

As Daisy noted I too have found ducks scattered across a broad approach to off trail passes where any route one could take would do. Couldn't possibly knock them all down so just did the ones on my route!

By the way did not see many ducks on our off trail travels in the sawtooths but even "off trail" there were frequently goat trails to follow.

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Re: Opinion: Calling for an end to cairns

Postby freestone » Sun Aug 09, 2015 11:54 am

The cairns on Langley and the reason they are there:
http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/u ... 4acc-1.pdf

Trekker duck graffiti on the Baxter trail:
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Re: Opinion: Calling for an end to cairns

Postby Tom_H » Tue Aug 11, 2015 9:57 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:they caught a fellow hauling cement. He was constructing a shelter in Keweah Basin to ride out the "end of the world"!



Holy $#!+, I'm not happy about what he did, but I'm still cracked up laughing. This world is full of some real nut cases.
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Re: Opinion: Calling for an end to cairns

Postby longri » Thu Aug 13, 2015 8:35 am

To me the ego cairns are like trash or graffiti. They don't harm the environment, just my experience of it. They are also a metaphor for how many of us interact with the wilderness.

The thread title is laughable.
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