Scoutmaster Musings - Cairns

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leave no trace rock cairns I'd like to elaborate on two points that came up in the comments of my last post - and thank you for all your thoughts.

Cairns vs. Art
Some people mentioned that rock cairns are useful for marking the trail so the rock stack I found should be left alone. The rock stacks were most definitely NOT cairns. The trail is manicured and so encompassed by forest that a person would need to work at getting off the trail.

Rock Art does not adhere to the ethics of Leave No Trace. Some of the specific LNT items to consider are:

If a person subscribes to the LNT philosophy, then piling rocks isn't something that person would do. It is something we should be teaching youth not to do when we have the opportunity.

There is certainly a place for rock art, and nature art in general. Some people make a living from it - see Andy Goldsworthy. But, we shouldn't be building artworks in the wild, or on public lands, and leaving them for others to observe after our hike.

Building Cairns
Cairns are definitely useful in some areas. Many land management groups build and maintain cairns to mark the trail, similar to blazes on trees. For example, see this cairn construction page. A group spends time removing unofficial cairns and rock art to improve the usefulness of the maintained cairns.

In a pristine environment, hikers should have the opportunity to feel like they are the first explorers. No trail markings are needed through an area with no trail. Cairns in a pristine area may concentrate traffic to a specific path, creating a trail counter to LNT philosophy, rather than dispersing traffic to keep the area pristine.

In an area with established trails, cairns or blazes made by the responsible land agency are adequate. Individuals adding to them can cause confusion and unneeded visual impact.

Here are a couple other pages you might review - Leave what you find, LNT Blog

If you are a proponent of LNT, please take care in how the philosophy is shared with others. You can do it reasonably in an effort to help others understand the value, or this way -

Scout On

Posted: 11:00 12-05-2011 713
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