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Yosemite Officials Urge Visitors to Knock Over Any Rock Stacks They Encounter

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City slickers who flock to Yosemite National Park received a pointed lecture on the subtle nuances of the natural world when park officials reminded them that the land is not their playground.

The park’s Instagram account recently showed a ranger tipping over a human-sized rock cairn and explained why the structure that kept tourists occupied for a while was a nuisance.

“Should you knock this over?? Yes!” the post said, encouraging visitors to smash what was done by a previous tourist.

“Why did Wilderness Restoration Rangers dismantle this rock cairn? According to Leave No Trace ethics when we recreate in wilderness spaces, our goal is to leave no signs of our impact on the land and respect other creatures living in it. Unfortunately, this dramatically oversized cairn is a mark of human impact and is distracting in a wilderness setting.”

The post said building rock cairns harms the natural place tourists come to experience.

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“Building rock cairns also disturbs small insects, reptiles, and microorganisms that call the underside home!” the post explained.

“When used appropriately, rock cairns are great for navigation, safety, and delineating a new or hard-to-follow trail. In general, rock cairns should only be constructed by rangers and trail workers. Please dismantle and refrain from building rock cairns when you visit Yosemite.”

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The advice triggered a debate among Instagram users.

“Thanks for crushing the poor indigenous bugs and critters as you topple over a harmless cairn. You people are savages,”one user wrote.

“Tries to teach ‘Leave No Trace Ethics’ to all of us, by posting a reel showing us all that they left a trace of where they knocked over the cairn. Probably even did more damage to the trail, and any insects while doing so,” another user wrote.

“Hey Yosemite, as a Leave No Trace Master Educator, we teach to gently dismantle an unofficial cairn and disperse the rocks, not topple it or kick it. If you are unsure what’s official, leave it be. Thanks!” yet another user wrote.

“Some of you have never been lost alone in remote wilderness because of ‘artistically stacked rocks’ masking the true trail markers and it shows,” a different user commented.

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Over at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah, officials also oppose building rock cairns, but say visitors should leave the demolition to them, according to KTVX.

“We ask that visitors do not disturb them, knock them down, add to them, or build their own, as that can lead to other visitors getting lost in the desert,” said Karen Garthwait, a representative of the parks. “We also ask that visitors not create their own sculptures out of the rocks that they find and collect.”

She said that “spontaneous sculpture gardens” distract from the park’s appearance and that foraging for just the right rocks by going off trails could damage the park’s ecosystem.

However, she said, visitors who see cairns they think are visitor-made should report them to park officials because the park has official ones as well to mark trails.

“Appropriately sized rocks are not uniformly distributed on all trails, and some trails require taller cairns if the desert terrain is uneven or has challenging sight lines,” Garthwait said.

“That said, ranger-built cairns tend to have at least three levels of rocks, are built for stability, and are positioned so that you can see the next one at a linear distance from the previous one,” she said, saying one sign of an unofficial cairn is that the rock structure will look “precarious.”

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Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack can be reached at jackwritings1@gmail.com.
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Politics, Foreign Policy, Military & Defense Issues




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