The Cairn Poll

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Cairn Cares?

Small and Discrete
22
11%
Big enough to be noticed
62
32%
The bigger the better!
6
3%
They annoy me but I get over it.
5
3%
HATE 'em all - get rid of them!!!
7
4%
No Opinion
5
3%
Absolutely Yes IF there is No or Little trail
87
45%
 
Total votes: 194

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montezumawell
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The Cairn Poll

Post by montezumawell »

Do you care about cairns? Here's your chance to show the world your cairn feelings. Why does this matter?

Believe it not, there is an evolving 'cairn controversy' in Sedona.
Those of you who have hiked trails in that area know the Forest Service marks routes with large 'baskets' of rocks. In essence, these 'baskets' are mini-gabions, structures normally used in bank stabilization designs.
Some people also call the Sedona-style cairns 'caged rocks.' Wire for the Sedona-cairns is painted the obligatory Smokey-approved 'Sedona dirt red.' Some pros and cons of these and other cairns will be briefly noted later in this message.

In the meantime, here's the deal: The Forest Service is in the process of constructing many new cairns on some of Sedona's high usage trails. So many tens of thousands of people hike those trails that it's simply a numbers game--a certain percentage WILL get lost no matter WHO is holding their hand! Cairns help reduce the total 'lost' numbers.

Sooo...the Forest Service is putting out a lot more of their Sedona-style cairns. And some of the locals don't like it--hence the controversy. Some unidentified vandals have gone so far as to remove trail crew markers identifying the upcoming locations for the cairns. Apparently, the Forest Service is receiving enough 'input' about the cairns to actually prompt the Sedona District's Landscape Architect to post wordy notices here and there along some trail(s) explaining the cairns. The Architect, Jennifer Burns, even invites the public to call her @ 928-282-4119 to discuss cairns. Imagine that! Then, lo and behold, the Sedona Red Rock News comes out with a nearly full page article on trail cairns. We are not making this up. It could only happen in Sedona, where people have been known to argue about the positive or negative magnetism of vortices. Soooo....here is this poll.

Do HAZ members care about cairns? If so, HOW do they care about cairns? We are planning on alerting Ms. Burns as to the presence and location of this topic and its accompanying poll. The results won't make any difference whatsoever in the Forest Service's plans for more cairns but it least it will hopefully provide some passing entertainment for her.

Disclaimer: the creators of this topic and poll favor the Sedona-style cairns. They blend in well and make great places to sit. They are too much work for the vandals to tear out so they generally leave them alone. However, the Sedona anti-fee crowd has proven its numbers include some industrial strength vandals so it might not be surprising to see backhoes and bobcats attacking the trail cairns.

Ok, the pros and cons of trail cairns are probably as old as hiking. Most people don't give them a second thought but we know some people whose blood pressure is directly affected by the type, number and locations of trail cairns. Some people like to build them or add rocks to them. Some people delight in tearing them down or, worse yet, placing them so as to confuse hikers. Some people feel hikers should be 'on their own' with no assistance except perhaps Divine Intervention and GPS. Others feel comforted by the unseen hands that constructed a well-placed trail cairn. Some feel cairns ought to be only a few balanced rocks. Others think a cairn isn't a cairn unless it is at least chest high. So, that's the size of it. Now the rest is up to you. Participate in the poll and let your narrative thoughts be known to all right here on HAZ--where thoughtful hikers come to relax!

John & Susun in Rimrock

Note--The poll 'questions' are subject to editing and amendment(s).
Last edited by montezumawell on May 03 2002 7:34 pm, edited 6 times in total.
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djui5
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Post by djui5 »

I hike in the Supers a lot, along some of the no so often traveled trails, and I can't count how many times I've been really happy to see cairns. They're a life saver, literally, sometimes. Even with maps you don't always know exactly where your going, especially the first time you hike some places.

Someone mentioned kicking over cairns in the river beds, but I think this is a bad idea. Sometimes a trail will head up the river/canyon bed, and maybe you don't know how far up the bed to go, maybe it's just a few hundred yards, or maybe it's a lot further. Properly places cairns along the way will guide you to where the trail cuts back onto "land". Not all the maps out there are very accurate, and some of them are downright wrong in places.

I've yet to see a place anywhere in the Superstitions that I felt a cairn was out of place. Maybe sometimes there are more than enough in a certain place, but that's ok, it's just that much more confidence that you're on the right path.

I ask that we please don't kick down, or remove any cairns. Not everyone has hiked the same trial a million times, and knows exactly where to go. Think of others before you go destroying potentially live saving trail markers. What if it was a family member of yours that got lost, and possibly died, because someone kicked down the cairns?

In regards to the size of them, I think 4-6 rocks is plenty in most places. Any less or more is unnecessary, though more is welcome in my book, if someone wants to take the time.
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PaleoRob
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Post by PaleoRob »

djui5 wrote:Properly places cairns along the way will guide you to where the trail cuts back onto "land". Not all the maps out there are very accurate, and some of them are downright wrong in places.
I wasn't talking about places where the trail crosses a stream bed, I was talking about places where the trail is the stream bed for its entire length, with no possibility of deviation.
"The only thing we did was wrong was staying in the wilderness to long...the only thing we did was right was the day we started to fight..."
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Lizard
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Post by Lizard »

In response to PageRob's reply:

Or, even worse, streambeds where there is no designated trail at all. Just a route. Yet someone feels a need to build cairns. I take great pleasure in "duck-kicking" in spots like this.
"Of course we weren't lost. We were merely where we shouldn't have been, without knowing exactly where that was."
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djui5
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Post by djui5 »

PageRob wrote: I wasn't talking about places where the trail crosses a stream bed, I was talking about places where the trail is the stream bed for its entire length, with no possibility of deviation.
I see, guess I misunderstood you. Either way, I don't see the harm in a couple of well places cairns (they can be quite far apart as long as you can see them) along the stream bed telling the hiker to continue on, UNLESS there are huge sheering walls on either side of the stream bed and no way of exiting either side. Then it's kinda pointless, I agree. Even then, what's the harm? It's not like someone placed a barb wire fence along the route...
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domer88
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Post by domer88 »

I think its fine wherever they are, they dont ruin the hiking expierence, if anything the just assure you that you are on the path. Even when they are in streambeads, its nice to know sometimes that you did not *miss* the trail when it brances off the streambed, if you see the carin you know you have not gone to far (usally)...

EDIT - Duhh.. I thought the previous post was bout leaving the streambed.. ok, if the trail is the entire streambed then I guess you would not need them...
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SuperstitionGuy
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Post by SuperstitionGuy »

Cairns in a Wilderness detract from the wilderness experience. Especially if they are of recent construction. I preferred to backpack solo and would even go off trail occasionally so as not to destroy another hiker/backpackers wilderness experience. Unfortunately this was not always possible. Once I came around a large boulder in upper Fish Creek in the Supers and nearly walked directly into another backpacker going the other way. He was more than surprised and said that he didn't expect to meet anyone in that canyon. The only advantage I see in meeting other hiker/backpackers is to share with them information about the area and vice-a-versa. Thanks to Joe B. now we can do this online through HAZ.
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K0HB
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Re: The Cairn Poll

Post by K0HB »

I'm an old geezer to most of you (67 last week) and new to hiking. Without cairns I'd have several times have been the object of a SAR incident. Maybe I should stick to city sidewalks?
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PaleoRob
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Re: The Cairn Poll

Post by PaleoRob »

K0HB wrote:I'm an old geezer to most of you (67 last week) and new to hiking. Without cairns I'd have several times have been the object of a SAR incident. Maybe I should stick to city sidewalks?
There's plenty of trails out there for all levels. Just because some of us don't like cairns in our backcountry experience doesn't mean that we're all anarchists wanting pure unadulterated trails all the time. Look at most folks' trip logs and you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn't done something like Piestewa Peak or Bell Rock or Bright Angel some other well-developed trail. We really are nice folks, I swear! ;)
"The only thing we did was wrong was staying in the wilderness to long...the only thing we did was right was the day we started to fight..."
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joebartels
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Re: The Cairn Poll

Post by joebartels »

PageRob wrote:We really are nice folks, I swear! ;)
I'll second that swear
- joe
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rdavisiii
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Re: The Cairn Poll

Post by rdavisiii »

I am of the opinion they are very useful, on summits the big one make great spots for peak baggers to snap the Wheaties pose 8) . All those people finishing the AT on Baxter peak, without that cairn, they would only have a weather battered sign to pose next to, even then the wind would take the sign for a ride every now and then. When you get above treeline or in an Alpine Zone in the winter, or even in the summer sometimes those piles of granite are your way, without them you would be trampling who knows where :scared: .
Lower aircraft have the right of way!
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cactusrose63
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Re: The Cairn Poll

Post by cactusrose63 »

Speaking as one who has absolutely NO sense of direction...I love cairns. It's just something genetic that I'm missing I guess. So cairn vandals out there, don't hate me because I'm stupid...love me because I want to be out there enjoying this beautiful earth with you. I think GPS was invented specifically for me...I have realized this is my most important next purchase!
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allanalxndr
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Re: The Cairn Poll

Post by allanalxndr »

I found them to be extremely useful on the Babe Haught Trail. 8" of snow made it hard enough to find the trail, then the fog and darkness hit it was impossible. Without those cairns I would have never of made it to Knoll Lake.
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Sredfield
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Re: The Cairn Poll

Post by Sredfield »

cactusrose63 wrote:Speaking as one who has absolutely NO sense of direction...I think GPS was invented specifically for me...I have realized this is my most important next purchase!
Note that the sun comes up in the east, (generally) and go from there, you can develop a sense of direction.

And I caution you that the GPS is only an imperfect tool/machine, it will fail, and if you have your hike/day/life dependent upon it, you will be disappointed. I've recently added one to my bag, and enjoy the experience but there are lots of issues in using them and it would be a big mistake to depend on one for your safety or enjoyment of the trail.
Shawn
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te_wa
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Re: The Cairn Poll

Post by te_wa »

Sredfield wrote:And I caution you that the GPS is only an imperfect tool/machine, it will fail,
:sl:

you are my new hero

seriously, there are some that swear by them and thats ok. but i say learn to use a map first. you can study a map before you depart- and reading landmarks with memory is going to save you when the batteries fail.
sometimes cairns are placed in such a fashion as to take you away from your target destination. the Cave Trail- fine example. i wouldnt always trust them either.
squirrel!
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snakemarks
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Re: The Cairn Poll

Post by snakemarks »

te-wa -
You are so right about the Cave Trail! I was there yesterday (that's a whole other story!) and there are cairns in absolutely any direction you decide to go! If you try to follow them, you can go in circles and never end up at your intended destination.

cactusrose63 -
You go, girl! I have a GPS, but then, it's only as good as the user. I still couldn't find a trail if it had runway lights! Maybe it is genetic :lol:

I have been very relieved to see a cairn on many occasions, but they shouldn't be so obnoxious as to be seen from space. Some are just ridiculous and/or unecessary even for the perpetually lost. http://hikearizona.com/phoZOOM.php?ZIP=60850

I don't like the visual of the ginormous Sedona cairns. "Ducks" are unobtrusive and quite helpful when constructed by the knowledgable. Unfortunately, there is nothing to prevent the clueless from building rock puppets everywhere they happen to be at the time (Cave Trail). So, you can't rely on ducks to keep you in line.

Nothing will please everyone, but I vote for not getting lost.
I'm at home in the wilderness... it's civilization I have problems with! ](*,)
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Hoffmaster
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Re: The Cairn Poll

Post by Hoffmaster »

The Cave Trail can be confusing; especially for people hiking it for the first time. I think I had trouble following the "trail" at the bottom of the formation known as the Fortress. Perhaps some of the cairns were put up by climbers. There is quite a bit of rock climbing in that area, although most climbers (the ones that I know) are too lazy to hike all that way.
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big_load
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Re: The Cairn Poll

Post by big_load »

te-wa wrote: sometimes cairns are placed in such a fashion as to take you away from your target destination. the Cave Trail- fine example. i wouldnt always trust them either.
Do you mean the one by the Peralta TH that has cairns along half a dozen basically parallel trails (with a few quite notable exceptions)? That place is aggravating, not to mention crowded.
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BobP
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Re: The Cairn Poll

Post by BobP »

I voted big enough to be noticed. I think cairns can be great. When I was in CO last week, I followed some and sometimes found better routes on my own. On summit descends, I usually found alternates so as not to spend as much time waiting on those climbing up. I once followed the wrong cairn on the Revis Falls route and after about 15 mins I figured I had missed a turn down in the creek bed. I built a couple 'ducks' last week on one trail in CO, but always knocked them down on the way out. As for the GPS, I love it mostly for tracking my distance and elevation gain. I have topo maps loaded on my GPS, but I'd have to be hiking with my reading glasses which I regularly can't find. :)
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base871
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Re: The Cairn Poll

Post by base871 »

I dont mind cairns. they saved my life in Mineral Bottom once. But on well used trails its kinda annoying. But im sure they have helped out people who only hike once every 5 years, and would likely get more confused then , say, we would.
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skatchkins
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Re: The Cairn Poll

Post by skatchkins »

3 Reasons not to do that thing
[ youtube video ]
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