Trail Cairns

I own 33 acres 7 miles southeast of the house. Shawnee National Forest land borders it on the south and private property on the other 3 sides. I have permission to hike on both neighbors.

I’d never heard the word cairn until I found one between two Native American graves with stones piled on them. They were on private land.

Besides marking graves, cairns were also used my Native Americans to mark trails. The one above is on Forest Service land. I just happened to walk up to it one day. It and the one with the graves have a pointed stone standing upright. The one standing in this one is at the upper edge. The cairn was roughly 6×7 feet.

This cairn is on my property where the ravine starts sloping upward. I’ve hiked here for over 25 years. I walked by it who knows how many times. I never saw it as anything other than a pile of rocks.

Then one day, when hiking by, I had a “lightbulb” moment, “That’s a cairn!” The 2 larger rocks on the left are much larger and are sticking out of the ground. The cairn measures 10 feet wide and 6-7  feet from top to bottom.  I have wondered how many years the pointed stone has remained upright … I now wonder when each cairn was made … they could be really old … like 100’s of years! If only the stones could talk.

It wasn’t too long after finding that one that I found another cairn in the same ravine on my neighbor’s to the north. The 3 cairns are roughly in a line. The one south on Forest Service is at a much higher elevation, but in the same line.

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14 responses to this post.

  1. I learn something new each time I read your posts which are so enjoyable.

    Reply

  2. Very cool, in the Southwest native americans use Cairns as a sort of highway marker, you may have the same there..:-)

    Reply

  3. Posted by Therese on November 28, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    What can I say that I haven’t written before? Very impressive.

    Reply

  4. Your cairns are much wider than those in the southwest which are may be a foot and a half wide by two ft tall. I enjoyed your bringing trail markers to light.

    Reply

  5. Thanks for the lesson, Sensei! Very interesting!! 🙂

    Reply

    • I still have a lot to learn about them. I do occasionally build a small one in a creek I may be hiking by. Most of our small creeks have rocky bottoms. I pile/balance them when I do.

      Reply

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