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Stacking Rocks

Posted: Mon Jun 17, 2019 3:47 pm
by balzaccom
In case you were wondering. We've seen these "art installations" all over the parks we visit. And while every once in a while one seems slightly charming, the absolute epidemic of stacked rocks all over the place has quickly become a real eyesore.

When we were hiking on our recent trip to the Southwest, we noted this very clear sign that made it apparent: stacked rocks are graffiti. This is especially important in the Southwest, where geoglyphs and other rock installations can be thousands of years old, and indicate real archeological importance. Scrawling all over that with your own clever creations is graffiti, nothing more or less.

Here's a link to the sign: Image

Re: Stacking Rocks

Posted: Tue Jun 25, 2019 1:40 pm
by maiathebee
Hard agree. I kick these over whenever I see them. I don't even like cairns that mark routes that aren't officially maintained---they just cause more traffic through one area, creating a trail where there wasn't one before.

(ps your image didn't load)

Re: Stacking Rocks

Posted: Tue Jun 25, 2019 8:07 pm
by Wandering Daisy
I am very careful about knocking down cairns. I do not assume that I know best. Some cairns actually have historical significance and some off-trail cairns are very important for climbers. Cairns on trails may seem unnecessary in summer, but are useful once it snows to locate the trail. Some difficult to find passes have cairns; there is one on Keweah Queen that marks the proper descent gully on the Nine Lakes Basin side.

I do not cairn a route that I find, because it is arrogant to assume that my route is the best. I avoid putting up cairns except occasionally will put up a cairn while day-hiking to find the exact route back, and then knock it down on my way back. There is a fellow I used to hike with that always knocked down cairns. It really irritated me because HE would use the cairn to his benefit, and then knock it down for others to use.

Here is one of the larger cairns I have seen. I thought it was quite artistic. I do not know its origin or purpose, but am sure it is there for a reason. That was in 2002. I do not know if it is still there.

Reality is that published GPS tracks are the new "cairn" and do much more to channel use in once pristine areas than any old fashioned rock cairn ever did.

Re: Stacking Rocks

Posted: Wed Jun 26, 2019 8:51 am
by Gazelle
Cairns can be very helpful going up or traversing peaks, I have very rarely put up a carin usually only to find my way back down a peak and then like Daisy knock them over. I did leave some on The Minister as I found a great route and there were none as of yet. I do like them on some passes for descent routes also! Trails I find them annoying and maybe only needed to go over rock if you switchback or something.

Re: Stacking Rocks

Posted: Wed Jun 26, 2019 9:39 am
by bobby49
A duck is generally a temporary stack of rocks only about three rocks high. It may last one season, or maybe not. A cairn is generally much taller, like ten rocks high at a minimum, and is intended to be permanent. For example, the National Park Service built a trail of cairns going up Mount Langley, and that was intended to eliminate the dozens and dozens of ducks that were scattered over the same area. The cairns are tall enough to be seen even if fog is present, which is common on Langley.

Re: Stacking Rocks

Posted: Wed Jun 26, 2019 2:35 pm
by rightstar76
Wandering Daisy wrote:
Tue Jun 25, 2019 8:07 pm
There is a fellow I used to hike with that always knocked down cairns. It really irritated me because HE would use the cairn to his benefit, and then knock it down for others to use.
Definitely inconsiderate what he did.

I always leave cairns where they are as they serve a purpose. I do not feel it is right for me to remove them.

Re: Stacking Rocks

Posted: Wed Jun 26, 2019 4:24 pm
by Wandering Daisy
There are plenty of obviously unneeded cairns out there, particularly those that mark obvious campsites that one can see from the trail. I do remove most of the campsite markers. Other kind of "stacked rocks" are stone arrows that someone puts at a trail junction so someone in their party who is behind knows where to go. Fine for temporary need, but these should be removed as soon as no longer needed. It is not a simple answer of yes or no, but some judgement needs to be used. There are a lot bigger fish to fry regarding desecrating the wilderness than stacked rocks.

Re: Stacking Rocks

Posted: Wed Jun 26, 2019 6:06 pm
by freestone
I think the stacking rocks the OP is referring to has nothing to do with marking a route in the wilderness. People are stacking individual rocks as high as possible in the most noticeable place possible for no other reason than to be noticed.

Re: Stacking Rocks

Posted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 7:29 am
by Wandering Daisy
Those kind of stacked rocks (the supposedly artistic) are an expression of today's idea that human (personal) artistic expression is more important than preservation of the natural. It is like street artists have now expanded to the wilderness. Those "art" objects are often a symptom of our need to show that we have been to a place. The "wrong" in the stacked art rocks, is that they do not belong in areas specifically designated as "wild". The judgement of right or wrong can get nuanced. Established campsites, trails, signs, route cairns are also seen in the wilderness. Are all of these really needed? Too bad these "artists" cannot be like the sand artists who's joy is in making their work; and then wash it away as a symbol of the temporary nature of any human's existence in the universe.

A few years back a group of dancers put on a vertical dance on El Capitan - rigged up tons of ropes and then filmed the "performance". Climbers rig ropes to climb the wall. So is the artistic expression wrong? Both are temporary use of the rock wall.

In some urban environments, the solution has been to channel the graffiti to locations where the "artist" can display their work, such as concrete underpass walls. Other urban areas ban graffiti and paint it over, eliminating it temporarily, until it pops up again.

I generally do not like that kind of "art" in natural environments. But I must say, that the large "golf ball" sculpture on the long desolate drive between Wendover to Salt Lake City makes me happy. Had they put up a billboard, ugh!!

Re: Stacking Rocks

Posted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:08 am
by balzaccom
I think this is what we're trying to prevent...