There’s Something About a Cairn

First of all, I had to look up how to pronounce “cairn” correctly. I vacillate between ‘carn’ and ‘karen’.  Apparently, it’s “karen” almost hiding that ‘e’ at the end so it’s one syllable.

 

Anyway, there’s an utter necessity of cairns in desert hiking. For the last two days we’ve been on amazing trails in Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, but without the cairns, we’d be lost. There’s an almost divine intervention feeling about them to me, the way they are stacked by a (seemingly invisible) hand of another, a kind person (or god) who wanted to help me find my way. They give me joy. I feel like a kid finding one, a little giddy when I search and scan for one on some smooth surface of sliprock or in the wide sandy indentation of a dried riverbed. And there it is. A little gift. And my immediate satisfaction of having found it and knowing I am on the right path, like the whole hike is some scavenger hunt in a stunningly beautiful world. And what if I looked at life like that, even when it’s tangled and feels empty, or especially then. What if there are cairns out there for me; all I need to do is find them, follow them.

Cairns are beautiful, too. I like to add a rock on top sometimes as I go by to make them a little taller, a little easier to see.

 

Here are some photos from Canyonlands (Needles) and Arches National Parks, but nothing…nothing can capture the enormity of beauty there.

Landscape Arch

Stay safe everyone! Hope you see the cairns in your life, on your path. 😊❤️

6 thoughts on “There’s Something About a Cairn

  1. Moab and Arches were some of THE greatest highlights of our xc motorcycle trip. Enjoy the contrast of sky and land. It is hard to find anything as dramatic elsewhere. Travel safely friends!

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  2. I love Canyonlands and Arches so much! Magical earth. I thought you might like to know that in Andean Peru, a cairn is called an “apacheta” and they are found at mountain passes. When you can see the pass, you pick up a stone and carry it with you. The stone represents a weight or burden you are carrying (the larger the stone, the greater the burden), and you contemplate it as you approach the pass. Once you get there, you add it to an apacheta you find there, or start a new one if that moves you. Many years ago, when priests used to traverse the mountains “saving souls,” they would add crosses to the apachetas. The beautiful little pile of stones, as well as the practice of laying down a burden at a mountain pass, has always brought me tremendous joy.

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  3. Thank you! This was especially meaningful as we just returned from a trip to Arches. On our hike to Delicate Arch, I found that the cairns were missing. I suppose it was because of the hordes of people who now hike there but I felt uncomfortable without the silent guidance in stone.

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