I began writing for Cloudburst magazine 30 years ago in the December 1989 issue with an article titled “The Ethics of Indiscriminate Cairn Building” (shown below). So it was with interest that I read an article and reader debate in the July 29th 2019 issue of Adventure Journal (AJ) on the same theme.
Cairns are generally appropriate when used to mark routes over open ground, and for other navigation purposes such as stream crossings; but when they are built simply to mark people having visited a spot, or as someone’s idea of wilderness art, many people (and, increasingly, park managers) consider them to be a form of backcountry graffiti. In Canada’s national and provincial parks, for example, we have seen a proliferation of ‘stone men’ being built in many places, prompting at least one American visitor to wonder if this was something ‘Canadian.’ In Prince George, other examples include a recent teapot controversy on Teapot Mountain north of the city, as well as painted rocks and tree carvings in local parks. You can read the AJ article, “Cairn Ethics: Knock Them Down or Build Them Up“ at: adventure-journal.com/2019/07/reader-poll-should-we-knock-down-rock-cairns-or-leave-them-up.
Nash’s Cloudburst article is below (click to enlarge).