To cairn or not to cairn

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To cairn or not to cairn

Postby kitty » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 10:07 am

https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2018-10- ... y/10385936

Interesting article in news today.
Personally not a fan of random cairns other than official ones, or direction markers. They irk me as my opinion is that mother nature is the best artist so these human attempts at art detract from the natural beauty.

What are other opinions?

Id like to know what others think, why do people make them? Do you like them?
Last edited by kitty on Fri 19 Oct, 2018 10:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby tastrax » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 10:16 am

Likewise - I would knock them down if I came across them!
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby north-north-west » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 10:28 am

Small navigational or summit cairns where necessary - fine. Rock stacking because you're bored poo... and/or can't cope with unaltered nature - get out and don't come back until you've learnt the principles of MIB and LNT.

It's not just the visual intrusion; by moving rocks to create cairns or stacks, you disturb the vegetative growths on and around them (mosses, lichens etc) and remove shelter from small reptiles and invertebrates that live under the rocks.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby Lamont » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 3:07 pm

When it's clear they are an "artistic statement" (-someone said that to me once), I push them over, scatter them carefully.
They are often the bush equivalent of the city "tag".
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby Warin » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 4:28 pm

Lamont wrote:When it's clear they are an "artistic statement" (-someone said that to me once), I push them over, scatter them carefully.
They are often the bush equivalent of the city "tag".


I know some used to put a bottle of port in them. Be a shame to smash that.
I believe they now bury the port to ensure its survival.

I have found some cairns in WA quite handy .. when I could see them above the grass.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 6:49 pm

I'd say in Europe most cairns are very well done. In the Alps, I've never come accross a series of cairns that weren't appropriate (IE led safely to something interesting). But in the US I found it's a mess. It seems that they're done by hikers, not rangers, so you can see some just where a view is good, or some are just 3 rocks, that get confused with natural stacks of rocks... If you're gonna do a cairn, make it big enough and make it visible. In Lake Louise, Wyoming, I saw some rocks which I assumed would lead me to a nice view. It turns out the view was just from the end of the lake, you can't go further, but there were natural stacks of rocks that made me think they were continuing the cairns while they were not. In Sequoia National Park in California, I also saw cairns near the edge of the water at a waterfall. I didn't know if they meant "hey nice view" or "don't go further it's dangerous" but they had no real use.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby geoskid » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 8:55 pm

north-north-west wrote:
It's not just the visual intrusion; by moving rocks to create cairns or stacks, you disturb the vegetative growths on and around them (mosses, lichens etc) and remove shelter from small reptiles and invertebrates that live under the rocks.

NNW, I had heard that some people were concerned at this level of detail, but, how do you reconcile this sentence with your actions as an off track walker, peak bagger, and gardener of necessity in pursuit of the afore mentioned activities. it's easier for me, because cairns don't bother me - at all!
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby johnw » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 9:43 pm

kitty wrote:Id like to know what others think, why do people make them? Do you like them?

This:
north-north-west wrote:Small navigational or summit cairns where necessary - fine. Rock stacking because you're bored poo... and/or can't cope with unaltered nature - get out and don't come back until you've learnt the principles of MIB and LNT.

It's not just the visual intrusion; by moving rocks to create cairns or stacks, you disturb the vegetative growths on and around them (mosses, lichens etc) and remove shelter from small reptiles and invertebrates that live under the rocks.
John W

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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby Heremeahappy1 » Sat 20 Oct, 2018 8:52 am

Duplicate post. Not a cairn
Last edited by Heremeahappy1 on Sat 20 Oct, 2018 8:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby Heremeahappy1 » Sat 20 Oct, 2018 8:53 am

Cairns everywhere on the Viking circuit. Many are no longer there. Each trip I continue to remove them. It is an irrelevant and unrequired imposition on the nature of 'wilderness areas' in particular. Like pink tape and blazes on trees. Dont do it. I will continue to remove tape and cairns, you may keep you map and compass however.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby Gadgetgeek » Sat 20 Oct, 2018 9:03 am

In general I'm in the "don't" camp. There are exceptions, I don't mind seeing them say in a river bed near a campground if the water is low, as the river will remove them, or I know of a few places where its part of a tradition to carry a rock from the bottom of the hill to the top, and its okay with the land owner. But apart from that, its best not to disturb the rocks. .
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby peregrinator » Sat 20 Oct, 2018 9:16 am

Heremeahappy1 wrote:Cairns everywhere on the Viking circuit. Many are no longer there. Each trip I continue to remove them. It is an irrelevant and unrequired imposition on the nature of 'wilderness areas' in particular. Like pink tape and blazes on trees. Dont do it. I will continue to remove tape and cairns, you may keep you map and compass however.


1. "Everywhere on the Viking."
2. "Many are no longer there." I can't quite reconcile 1. and 2.
3. "Like pink tape and blazes on trees." Conceptually, perhaps. But I doubt the accuracy of your statement.
4. "You may keep you map and compass." I'm so glad about that. Otherwise I might be tempted to cairnonise.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby Mark F » Sat 20 Oct, 2018 9:48 am

I am also in the "don't" camp but would suggest not removing cairns that are important markers known and used by many walkers or written about in route descriptions - eg when to turn to find a narrow pass though a cliff line.
"Perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove".
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby Heremeahappy1 » Sat 20 Oct, 2018 10:12 am

When we apply individual discretion as to the importance of a cairn, we arrive back to the initial idea that some like cairns for art and others for direction, warning, notifying. It is opinion whether a cairn is important for direction and opionions are like handkerchiefs - everyone has one. Some are of the opinion navigation is an art.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby north-north-west » Sat 20 Oct, 2018 10:14 am

geoskid wrote:
north-north-west wrote:It's not just the visual intrusion; by moving rocks to create cairns or stacks, you disturb the vegetative growths on and around them (mosses, lichens etc) and remove shelter from small reptiles and invertebrates that live under the rocks.

NNW, I had heard that some people were concerned at this level of detail, but, how do you reconcile this sentence with your actions as an off track walker, peak bagger, and gardener of necessity in pursuit of the afore mentioned activities. it's easier for me, because cairns don't bother me - at all!


Well, my walking helps keep my mental state a little less unbalanced, which means it helps keep me alive. But I make a point of trying not to inflict any more damage than absolutely essential in order to get where I'm going.
Our whole lives hurt our natural environment, from our homes, our lust for energy, our food sources, travel, everything we do. The human species is destructive, and our modern society especially so. All we can do as individuals is minimise the damage as much as possible. So don't try to guilt me, through an implied perception of hypocrisy, into accepting any and every impost upon our natural world that some ignorant entitled twit doesn't care about, because it doesn't work.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby Mark F » Sat 20 Oct, 2018 11:23 am

Heremeahappy1 wrote:When we apply individual discretion as to the importance of a cairn, we arrive back to the initial idea that some like cairns for art and others for direction, warning, notifying. It is opinion whether a cairn is important for direction and opionions are like handkerchiefs - everyone has one. Some are of the opinion navigation is an art.

I believe the idea that human constructed "art" has a place in wilderness is totally wrong as it serves no purpose other than to pamper the ego of the maker. Your destruction of cairns, apparently regardless of purpose or importance, is placing your views as the standard without any consideration of others. There have been several in the bushwalking fraternity, including some rather well known, over the past 50 years that have adopted a similar position. NSW Parks also held that position regarding historic huts but the issues of heritage and safety have moved them to a more tolerant position. For me cairns need to be very few in number but some are not intrinsically "bad", however they do need to have solid case for their existence.
"Perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove".
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Re: Cairndinistaring

Postby Graham17 » Sat 20 Oct, 2018 12:55 pm

Just for balance of discussion, I quite like cairns...
They are environmentally friendly options for wayside markers. Skinks love them...
Other seemingly well accepted options include the widely used reflector sticks...thisnthat thru to boardwalks and fully hardened tracks. There are many fascinating historic cairns about, look alot better than trig points.
It's true that people like to make their mark on things, human nature I guess, as is the desire to knock things down.
So on balance I favour natural markers "where needed".
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby Heremeahappy1 » Sat 20 Oct, 2018 1:07 pm

". Your destruction of cairns, apparently regardless of purpose or importance, is placing your views as the standard without any consideration of others."
100% agree with you. I'm making the case that constructing a cairn is exactly the same, regardless of purpose.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby crollsurf » Sat 20 Oct, 2018 2:13 pm

I struggle to find enough time to go bushwalking in the first place. No way is something like a Cairn going to upset my mood.
For navigation, I think a well placed cairn actually is doing the environment a favour by helping avoid people stomping through the bush. And people getting lost isn't a good thing either.

If you can, take your frustration out on the "artistic" cairns and leave the navigational ones. The damage has already been done and nature has probably recolonized the cairn anyway.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby ribuck » Sun 21 Oct, 2018 6:12 pm

Mark F wrote:I am also in the "don't" camp but would suggest not removing cairns that are important markers known and used by many walkers or written about in route descriptions...

Everyone who disapproves of the cairn can remove one stone as they pass. Everyone who wants the cairn can add one stone.

Democracy in action, and no sudden disappearance of cairns which might be relied on.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby Warin » Sun 21 Oct, 2018 9:19 pm

ribuck wrote:
Mark F wrote:I am also in the "don't" camp but would suggest not removing cairns that are important markers known and used by many walkers or written about in route descriptions...

Everyone who disapproves of the cairn can remove one stone as they pass. Everyone who wants the cairn can add one stone.
Democracy in action, and no sudden disappearance of cairns which might be relied on.


Being a lazy Ozie 8) I don't care... so I mostly leave them alone.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby Mechanic-AL » Wed 24 Oct, 2018 12:44 pm

I would prefer a cairn any day over the fishing floats and plastic crap that is hanging out of the trees and bushes everywhere along the South Coast Track and around the Cape. :x :x
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A reed shaken in the wind"?
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby tom_brennan » Wed 24 Oct, 2018 3:56 pm

The main problem with cairns, and other ad hoc track markers, is what are they actually marking? Following a bunch of cairns, or bits of pink tape, doesn't guarantee that you will get where you are trying to get to, because they have no other information attached.

I can probably live with the (very) odd cairn at key intersections, but otherwise, I’m firmly in the dismantle camp.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby scroggin » Wed 24 Oct, 2018 8:50 pm

"But social media is influencing their use, with people making their own stacks for Instagram photos"
WT *$&#? Having said that I dont have a problem with cairns in appropriate locations. They are quite handy on rocky plateaus like at the grampians where tracks can be hard to establish.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby Nuts » Thu 25 Oct, 2018 6:48 am

ribuck wrote:
Mark F wrote:I am also in the "don't" camp but would suggest not removing cairns that are important markers known and used by many walkers or written about in route descriptions...

Everyone who disapproves of the cairn can remove one stone as they pass. Everyone who wants the cairn can add one stone.

Democracy in action, and no sudden disappearance of cairns which might be relied on.


The rules say that we have management authorities and (like it or not) generally do what they request for the greater good. The management authorities all have some form of minimal impact policy (perhaps besides Qld). 'Leave rocks and logs where they are', 'don't erect cairns or blaze trees'.. that sort of thing. It's interesting that we even think there is room for some sort of personal choice in this.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby CraigVIC » Thu 25 Oct, 2018 7:25 am

Nuts wrote:The management authorities all have some form of minimal impact policy (perhaps besides Qld). 'Leave rocks and logs where they are', 'don't erect cairns or blaze trees'.. that sort of thing. It's interesting that we even think there is room for some sort of personal choice in this.


There's no simple catch all answer. Eg the official Parks Vic description of pine mountain track includes, "Rock cairns mark the track as it traverses large, granite outcrops fringed with black cypress pine and other rare and interesting vegetation."
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby Lophophaps » Thu 25 Oct, 2018 7:50 am

What about historical tracks that now have fire regrowth? Might there be a case for marking these tracks so that people can take a logical route? The alternative is that parties will spread out and have smaller more widespread impacts. Keeping the impact in one place may be the best or least worst option, with tracks sited to go around the more sensitive areas.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby Nuts » Thu 25 Oct, 2018 12:05 pm

Nothing wrong with cairns or tags, just seem rather pointless unless they are placed in some sort of coordinated/controlled way. I picture a time when parks are adequately funded for their worth with teams of happy parkies out replacing tags and maybe tagging rock cairns in a proper review.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby trekker76 » Thu 25 Oct, 2018 1:48 pm

Like the rise of tattoos, the latest generations need to squiggle their mark on stuff. Probably a reaction to not having the same economic opportunities. I don't find either thing necessary, but nor does it bother me, insofar as they aren't destroying stuff or damming creeks.
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Re: To cairn or not to cairn

Postby Zapruda » Thu 25 Oct, 2018 1:59 pm

Tekker76 wrote:Like the rise of tattoos, the latest generations need to squiggle their mark on stuff. Probably a reaction to not having the same economic opportunities. I don't find either thing necessary, but nor does it bother me, insofar as they aren't destroying stuff or damming creeks.


Human beings have been leaving their mark on things since day 1. Some aboriginal rock art near me has been there for 800 years.

I despise the "artistic" cairns that I find, and I dismantle them when I can. I appreciate small ones at track junctions and in places that help filter people in a particular way so they aren't bashing there way over sensitive areas. I cant stand that horrible pink marker tape that springs up everywhere now.
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