Per­ma­nent Mark­ers

Cabin Living - - Cabin Capers -

On a long, un­fa­mil­iar trail, when a hiker comes across a lit­tle heap of stones called a cairn, you might hear him breathe a sigh of re­lief. “Oh, some­one has been this way be­fore,” he thinks. “I’m not lost.”

Cairn tra­di­tions range from cul­ture to cul­ture and coun­try to coun­try. In some places, a cairn tra­di­tion­ally in­di­cated a burial or re­li­gious site. Along coast­lines, cairns (some­times painted white) were once used as prim­i­tive mark­ers for the shore­line. In Korea, you can add a peb­ble to a cairn for good luck when hik­ing. Some climbers carry a stone from the bot­tom of a moun­tain to add to a cairn at the sum­mit.

In bar­ren, tree­less places, cairns are some­times used to mark trails or sig­nal dan­gers like a sud­den drop-off. Cairns are some­times called “ducks,” es­pe­cially those stacks where the top stone is larger and points in the di­rec­tion of the trail.

Cre­at­ing a cairn of your own can feel like plant­ing your flag on a newly dis­cov­ered out­post—although you may want to re­frain from adding a new cairn in a place where hik­ers de­pend on cairns to stay on a path. If you’re hik­ing in a na­tional park, pay at­ten­tion to any rules against build­ing cairns.

Whether they’re on a beach, a moun­tain sum­mit, at a sa­cred site or even in your own gar­den, cairns are whim­si­cal pieces of im­promptu sculp­ture; sturdy ev­i­dence that hu­mankind has seen and ap­pre­ci­ated the beauty of a

wild place.

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