Cairn making is a surprisingly meditative activity that can bring you closer to the earth and your community. It’s a great way for you to get your mind off of the everyday and focus more on balance and permanence.
Throughout the history of mankind, cairns have served many different purposes. They may have been used to mark out a route, to indicate food sources, or to warn people of danger. In North America Native Americans also made cairns to serve as burial places, a tradition known as inukshuk.
The word “cairn” comes from the Gaelic for “heap of stone”. They are usually constructed in the form a hill. They can range in size from tiny rock sculptures to huge man-made stone hills. Some are comparable to kistvaens or dolmens, but built out of stone instead of ephemeral Earthworks.
Hikers, in particular, have a long and varied use for cairns. Cairns help hikers find their way back to the trailhead, after a hard day of hiking.
A well-placed trail cairn is a lifesaver and can guide stranded hikers or those who have difficulty finding their way. Some people claim that cairns do not belong in the environment and violate Leave No Trace principles.