By Devon ReynoldsJuly 20th, a blustery, grey Sunday, found me just above tree line on Cascade, repairing a tumbledown cairn. As a summit steward, I do a variety of trail work, from packing rocks into loose soil to stabilize it against erosion, to lining the trail with stones to guide hiker’s footsteps. Cairn construction, however, is my favorite trail maintenance. It takes patience and skill, and the resulting stone towers, rising in silhouette against the sky, have a stark and unforgettable beauty.
There are several factors that go into choosing a site for a cairn. Those lovely silhouettes are no accident—cairns are placed where they will be most visible to hikers, on the lips of ledges so they will contrast with the sky rather than blending into the rock around them. A cairn must also be built on relatively flat ground, a difficult thing to find on Adirondack summits!