Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Acadia Cairns - Guiding the Way

Hiking closer to the top of Dorr Mountain in Acadia National Park off the coast of Maine, we found the path and vegetation give way to dense fog and the pink granite rock for which Acadia is known.

What we found as our hike brought us near the top are Acadia Cairns, strategically placed stacked rocks designed to show hikers the way across long stretches of barren landscape.

I was so intrigued by these little formations that I did some research when I returned back home. The word cairn is Scottish meaning "a pile of stones" and the tradition of building cairns to mark the trail for hikers is universal and hundreds of years old.  I found out that there are several different styles of cairns. The ones found on Acadia's trails are called Bates Cairns, named for Waldron Bates, who developed the simplistic style of two to four stones creating "legs," a mantle stone bridging the legs and one smaller stone on top to point the way.  Sadly park rangers have recognized the need to post a sign at the trailhead asking hikers not to dismantle, alter or build new cairns.  It seems in recent years, vandalized cairns have been on the rise, causing environmental and safety concerns for hikers.

Not only was I completely taken by the charm of the cairns - I probably took about twenty photos of them from different vantage points - I was thankful they were there, beckoning us across the granite and eventually leading us back to the semblance of a trail that would take us back down the other side of the mountain.   What reassurance those piles of stones provided - Don't we all sometimes need the comfort of knowing that if we become unsure of the way, we can rely on the directional markers of those who have gone before.