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A Big Boo to Stone Stacking

Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
An interesting mistranslation in the article: "Cuiridh mi clach air do charn." Translation: "I will put a stone on your cairn." was not a "blessing" in any way that I would read it. For the speaker to place that stone they will have out-lived the receiver and likely out fought them to boot :eek:

Anyone with time on there hands (??) might enjoy these threads:
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
We are learning that stone stacking is not evironmentally sound and although can be an interesting type of "art" in some landscapes, doing it for "fun" should be avoided.
I have been on a few rather remote trails over the years, and seeing a few small single stacks used as trail markers was very comforting to my well-being and beneficial.
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
Stone stacking on the trails where I walk in the Rocky Mountains has long been used as a way of route marking over passes and in other areas where it is the only simple way to indicate a route. Recently, Parks Canada officials in Banff National Park decided to disassemble inuksuks in the park. I was pleased, and relieved, to see that they had disappeared, as they were only found as a sign of "I was here" in the busier backcountry areas. I always regard any type of graffiti in natural areas as offensive, a clear sign of the stupidity of its creator.
 

malingerer

samarkand
Camino(s) past & future
cf (2), de la plata, cp. (2003 -2018)
Stone stacking on the trails where I walk in the Rocky Mountains has long been used as a way of route marking over passes and in other areas where it is the only simple way to indicate a route. Recently, Parks Canada officials in Banff National Park decided to disassemble inuksuks in the park. I was pleased, and relieved, to see that they had disappeared, as they were only found as a sign of "I was here" in the busier backcountry areas. I always regard any type of graffiti in natural areas as offensive, a clear sign of the stupidity of its creator.
OK what is an inuksuk please? :)

samarkand
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
OK what is an inuksuk please? :)

samarkand
The article referenced above describes its use by the Inuit, native peoples of Northern Canada, as a direction and location marker, with so many useful purposes that it has its own symbolic language. Examples which I have seen often look like a rough stone statue of a person, made of slabs of stone with an arm pointing in some direction. I cannot offer you details, but find imitations in National Parks to be offensive and (literally) pointless.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016), VDLP (2017), Mozarabe (2018), Vasco/Bayona (2019)
I accept the admonition against stone stacking, and will avoid the practice. However, I am a little sad about it. They have always caused a smile in me. I have enjoyed many moments with my family playing with rock stacking as a fun challenge. This has usually been at a beach, along with building sand castles, so one might argue that they are very temporary.

We continually learn about our effects on the environment and on other people. However, it seems unnecessary (and inaccurate, I believe) to say that rock stacking is an offensive egotistical action perpetrated by stupid people. OK, I am going a little over-the-top here, too. 🤣 😈
 

alhartman

346 joyful days in Spain and France since 2005
Camino(s) past & future
Hope so!
While no fan of the 'look at my art' and selfie culture, I would note that at 300,000 pilgrims per year it is hardly much added environmental damage. Overuse has already damaged it.

I think the managers of our 'public resource' treasures have a very tough job as populations and desirability of experiences increase. Before my Camino life, I got enticed into Elk Hunting. Always had to win in a 5:1 lottery draw to get a permit to go-so only once every 5 years.
Same throttling with Scout groups in the 80's in the High Sierras--limited permits by area. And Owyhee River requires rafters to take and use bucket toilets and firepans. In none of these 3 places was there evidence of anything other that 'take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints". The resource managers only admitted a load that the environment could sustain. And I think that also made those who used the resources more cognizant of careful treatment so that future generations could enjoy.

I don't think the rock-stackers think beyond their own artistic/spiritual/selfie needs. Even Cruz de Ferro devolved from a small rock-only pile in 2005 to a garbage pile of teddy bears, cloth patches, and photographs in 2016.

It is all part of the evolving camino experience. And we repeat-offenders look back with nostalgia and expectations; the newbies find all the rock stacking wonderful and charming and part of their camino experience.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
However, it seems unnecessary (and inaccurate, I believe) to say that rock stacking is an offensive egotistical action perpetrated by stupid people. OK, I am going a little over-the-top here, too.
It shows that there is going to be a fairly broad range of opinions here. There has certainly been some use in Australia by Europeans such as in exploration and survey work. But my take on the 'modern' use is that it is both unnecessary and environmentally insensitive. I see it as completely antiethical to the leave no trace principles. I cannot test the physcological inclinations of those who do contribute to building them, but I do take is as a sign that some immature or egotistical idiot has been there before me. Pity.
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
It is a challenge for those of us who love the outdoors, who love pilgrim walks, to do our best to avoid damaging what we love, while also refraining from judging others, who may love it differently from how we do. If only we can communicate this love along with a desire to carefully preserve these loved places for future generations.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
Repeat offender, recidivist, nostalgic. I'll plead on all three. And my Catch & Return permits and single take licences and an inclination these days to "if I ain't gonna eat it I ain't gonna take it".

I remember with a sort of affection explaining to escorted groups that yes, they were expected to poo into a plastic bag, and yes they were expected to carry bag & contents to a disposal point, and yes thats is how you maintain a pristine wilderness and no, I don't care what bears do, you don't!

And I remember getting home from school on a Friday and grabbing tarp and bed-roll and frying pan and heading out into the forest (with strict instructions to be back on Sunday in time for a bath) and lighting a fire to cook brook trout, fried eel or slow rabbit.

But we only made a pile of rock if it had a purpose.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Very good article. I appreciated it stated that the offenders have not realized they are vandalizing, but rather ignorant. Thankfully more awareness of this problem is being made in the media to hopefully discourage the trend. Although I've never participated in the fad, I always thought them "cute" and have taken photos, but I now have a different view.
 

Simon B

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Ingles and Camino Frances. VDLP Spring 2019
OK so the next thing will be that the Camino and the act of breathing will damage the environment. No more Camino in that case!! I cannot believe that the movement of a few stones is going to have that much impact when compared to the mega building projects currently being undertaken across the globe.
 

evanscl

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Oct 2016
Mea culpa mea culpa mea maxima culpa. I have not made a stone cairn or contributed to one but i did leave a small something at the cruz ferro in memory of my brother. I walked the camino to honour his courageously lived life because he couldnt have done it himself. It meant an enormous amount to me to carry it and to leave it there. It was like leaving a part of him there where he could be part of the camino and all who passed by, the great wide world that he never really participated in. I dont imagine i would do anything like that again, we live and learn and change our view. I see now, and in fact i saw then, that it can become a tawdry mess, but the human instinct to mark our passing or the life of another is strong. Few can resist and maybe it takes maturity and wisdom to be able to do so.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I too left a "small stone" twice at Cruz de Ferro. I don't think this particular act involving prayer or reflection is the main focus of the thread. I would be sad if it became illegal to do so on the Frances.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
OK so the next thing will be that the Camino and the act of breathing will damage the environment. No more Camino in that case!! I cannot believe that the movement of a few stones is going to have that much impact when compared to the mega building projects currently being undertaken across the globe.
Some building might be a discretionary human activity, but most isn't. Breathing certainly isn't, but stone stacking most definitely is.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
Who knows whether making 'decorative' stone piles is self-indulgent, egotistical, or not at all? Some pilers are victims of the narcissistic selfie culture, while others are just being whimsical.

But the process of accumulation is no mystery: people tend not to consider the collective impact of an activity undertaken by a multitude. One person makes a cute pile of stones and walks on, not thinking that the thousands of others behind them might be prompted by the sight to do the same thing. Litter, TP, and rock piles tend to accumulate in the same way.

If you don't like them, there's always rock unstacking. That doesn't repair the environmental damage, but it can be cathartic. ;)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2017), Primitivo (2019)
Used sensibly 'Cairns' actually serve a useful purpose. I have been glad of them hiking in the UK Lake District in bad weather. They indicate the path.

But 'random' stone stacking is somewhat self indulgent
Yes. It appears ai was unaware of the wide use of these stones as trail markers elsewhere and everywhere! Oooops...They are helpful at decision points and forks etc.
However, when I see them stacked at the ocean or some place like that, I just shake my head (in my mind, that is)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
OK so the next thing will be that the Camino and the act of breathing will damage the environment. No more Camino in that case!! I cannot believe that the movement of a few stones is going to have that much impact when compared to the mega building projects currently being undertaken across the globe.
I thought those were givens: the impact of the Xunta's drag-planed & stone-surfaced Autopista de Peregrin is visible to all. And the damage caused by human breath to the cave paintings at Lascaux and the decorations in the tombs of the Valley of the Kings is well documented. Take only photographs (no flash!); Leave only footprints: Oh, and hold-your-breath ;)
 
Camino(s) past & future
First 2016
Latest Camino Frances Jul-Aug 2020
I passed a load of stone stacks after Torres del Rio in the early morning on Monday and I am afraid the first thing that came into my mind was “Blair Witch Project...
 

Zordmot

First timer Spring 2019
Camino(s) past & future
April-May 2019
I would respectfully take a pass on this discussion but point out that any environmental or esthetic effect caused by stacks of rocks on the Camino is miniscule compared with what you will find behind any tree or bush along the CF.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
It shows that there is going to be a fairly broad range of opinions here. There has certainly been some use in Australia by Europeans such as in exploration and survey work. But my take on the 'modern' use is that it is both unnecessary and environmentally insensitive. I see it as completely antiethical to the leave no trace principles. I cannot test the physcological inclinations of those who do contribute to building them, but I do take is as a sign that some immature or egotistical idiot has been there before me. Pity.
I can certainly agree that rock piling is antithetical to the "leave no trace" principles. What I'm not so sure of is to what extent the "leave no trace" principles apply to the Camino.

Bear with me here. I am not arguing in favour of littering, leaving our used toilet paper all over the trail, etc. But it seems to me that one of the things that is different between the Camino and other long distance trails like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail is that it is not just a long walk through nature. It is also "trail as a cultural artifact". One of the things that brings us to the Camino is the traces that have been left by the people who have walked it before us: the churches, the sculptures (like that atop the Alto de Perdon), the places like David's donativo stand before Astorga or, more recently, the GardZen I've started seeing in people's Camino videos. It seems to me that it is the traces that bring us back to the Camino as much as the untouched wilderness.

Which isn't to say that rock piling is good. As I said, there are plenty of bad traces we can leave. Just that I'm not so sure that "leave no trace", presented as an absolute principle, applies in the same way on the Camino as it does on other trails. Maybe we need to distinguish between constructive traces and destructive traces and say "Leave only constructive traces."

I'm not tied to this. It was just something that occurred to as I read the post quoted above.
 
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Sue127

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
French Camino in 2020
We are learning that stone stacking is not evironmentally sound and although can be an interesting type of "art" in some landscapes, doing it for "fun" should be avoided.
I have been on a few rather remote trails over the years, and seeing a few small single stacks used as trail markers was very comforting to my well-being and beneficial.
Like most things - it's a question of scale. When everyone jumps on the bandwagon, what was acceptable becomes not so.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
But it seems to me that one of the things that is different between the Camino and the other long distance trails is that it is not just a long walk through nature.
You raise an interesting point, but if this is the foundation of your argument, I don't think it is as strong as you need to make your case. Amongst other things, this looks like any other unfounded special pleading. I would only have to point out that one long distance walk has cultural as well as natural values to disprove your contention here, and I can point out many. Some that I have walked include pilgrimage routes in Norway, Sweden and Australia.

Raising the issue of building, even perhaps things are are quite temporary in nature, is a distraction in my view. Yes, we do that, and we decorate and enhance those buildings in ways well beyond what is required merely for functionality. We like to live in elegant surroundings, and I have no difficulty with making our own built environment pleasing as well as functional.

But we now have well over a century of deliberately preserving areas of natural and cultural significance in national or similarly protected parks and places, starting in the US around the turn of the 20thC. Even outside of these well protected areas, I believe we have a moral obligation to leave having made as little change as possible. Leave only footprints.
 

Walton

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 Sjpp to Sdc. 2018 Lisbon to Sdc to Finisterre. Next up hopefully VDP or Del Norte.
I understand that there is a huge difference between the practice of stone stacking in pristine areas like National Parks and wilderness areas, and the placing of stones on markers etc on heavily trafficked walking route like the Camino Francis.

I'm guilty of leaving stones on markers etc - to me in private memory of passed loved ones and to say symbolically to them, that I remember you, in my private reflections while walking on heavily walked non-national park pathways.

What I find particularly offensive is discarded toilet paper, plastic wrappers, wet wipes, empty water bottles, bits of clothing etc along the path. I also feel dismay and sadness at the many spent shotgun shells that litter the path in areas. Each of these represent some poor bird or animal that was blasted at sometime and probably shot and killed for some bloodthirsty idiots entertainment.

The people who do this are disrespecting the environment, much more so than stone stackers on busy, and heavily walked pathways in my opinion.

I also strongly object to people picking wildflowers, and fungi on the way. One fellow, had a huge colourful toadstool on his hat. He told me he picked it off the track earlier on. My reply was something to the effect thanking him for removing an object of beauty that others would have admired had he left it alone. There were some other words added which left him a little unhappy, to say the least.

I also called out a lady pilgrim who threw lollie warppers on the ground in front of me. She abused me loudly saying "they" should provide rubbish bins for her along the path. I said in response as i walked past her, that she was living proof that it is impossible to argue with mindless idiots and that everybody who saw her rubbish on the ground would wonder who the idiot was that discarded that.

It is much better to pick up the rubbish that you find (toilet paper and wet wipes excluded without a suitable implement) and carry it to the next bin (which sometimes can be found sadly overflowing admittedly).

This I do and this really makes me happy knowing that I've left the track in better condition for the people following and for the environment.

That's what I do, and the only trace I leave is footsteps and the odd stone on a waymarker. Never stone moving in National Parks and never in wilderness or areas where environmental damage would occur.

Take care

Graham
 

Charles Zammit

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
St Jean Pied de Port - Finisterra 2017
GR70 France 2018
Via Francigena 2019
Stone cairn or way marker ? Both serve a similar purpose . A stone cairn is constructed from local stone sourced perhaps within a metre of its location , it will survive for as long as it is maintained and then , when we are all dust, return to its natural environment. A constructed way marker is invariably a lump of environmentally destructive, energy consuming concrete , or a piece of timer and metal pressure treated with toxic chemicals made to stand out against its surroundings rather than blend in .
I would agree that cairns on otherwise well trodden and unmistakable paths are folly and personal indulgences similar to the ' Foo Was Here ' phenomena of the 40's through to the late 60's , however there is a place for them , particularly in mountainous regions where a wrong move can spell disaster.
I would rather not see markers in pristine environments, but they are necessary in some circumstances and certainly preferable to countless search and rescue efforts caused by their absence .
I know I would much rather see and follow a loose stone cairn tended by countless walkers before me than a painted orange, treated pine post with a plastic /aluminium composite plaque on it.

As a foot note , I owe my own life to a simple stone cairn some two feet high , but that is another story .
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
Stone cairn or way marker ? Both serve a similar purpose . A stone cairn is constructed from local stone sourced perhaps within a metre of its location , it will survive for as long as it is maintained and then , when we are all dust, return to its natural environment. A constructed way marker is invariably a lump of environmentally destructive, energy consuming concrete , or a piece of timer and metal pressure treated with toxic chemicals made to stand out against its surroundings rather than blend in .
I would agree that cairns on otherwise well trodden and unmistakable paths are folly and personal indulgences similar to the ' Foo Was Here ' phenomena of the 40's through to the late 60's , however there is a place for them , particularly in mountainous regions where a wrong move can spell disaster.
I would rather not see markers in pristine environments, but they are necessary in some circumstances and certainly preferable to countless search and rescue efforts caused by their absence .
I know I would much rather see and follow a loose stone cairn tended by countless walkers before me than a painted orange, treated pine post with a plastic /aluminium composite plaque on it.

As a foot note , I owe my own life to a simple stone cairn some two feet high , but that is another story .
But this is not the issue under discussion here. I have relied on rows of cairns a number of times, to take me safely over a mountain pass from one valley to another. The "stone stacking" referred to here applies only to piles of stones serving no useful purpose built for personal entertainment in places where they are generally an eyesore and, at worst, damage the environment and obstruct the view of nature. There is more and more of this taking place on the camino Frances, as walkers see such piles of stones and choose to add their own.
 

Galloglaigh

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Lycra tribe.
CF (2017/8), VF (2018/9), Old Way (2020), VFnS (2020), CP (rebooked) (2021), VdT (ToDo)
OK what is an inuksuk please?
There is an Inukshuk display in the foyer of the UN Building in New York which I think referred to the dual purpose of marking routes and sacred places. So would disassembling them not cause offence?

Or am I mistaken about their purpose?
 

Zordmot

First timer Spring 2019
Camino(s) past & future
April-May 2019
Getting back to the original post and original question. The problem of some people building cairns and the problem of some others who wish to knock them down are related to the reality of the lawless nature of the Camino. There is a river of people moving through towns and countryside with no municipality providing expectations of behavior, accountability, protection, safety, and service. In any other human gathering of this size on the planet there would be the expectation of such social infrastructure. The cairn is but a reminder of the weakness of a system where each person is free to do whatever the hell they feel like doing.
 

Galloglaigh

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Lycra tribe.
CF (2017/8), VF (2018/9), Old Way (2020), VFnS (2020), CP (rebooked) (2021), VdT (ToDo)
Staying on the original question. Who defines "purpose" and using the inuksuk example, do the temporal authorities define what is useful/not useful within their definitions at the time.

Taking it further and applying 'leave no trace', should we have churches at all or should they be removed once their temporal purpose has passed?

Caminos have an odd way of challenging you to look a lot deeper, if you want to. Or you can just pass everything by if that is your choice.
 

Charles Zammit

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
St Jean Pied de Port - Finisterra 2017
GR70 France 2018
Via Francigena 2019
Alberta girl , I had thought I had made the distinction between the two fairly clear .
"I would agree that cairns on otherwise well trodden and unmistakable paths are folly and personal indulgences similar to the ' Foo Was Here ' phenomena of the 40's through to the late 60's" .
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and back (no name; Tours; Francés; sea; no name)
"purpose"
Well, churches and cairns of the inuksuk kind have a practical purpose and serve(d) the local communities.

The small stone piles along the Camino Frances and on the official way markers serve no practical purpose for others; don't satisfy a need of the local communities; and whatever the individual need or the purpose of the individual was who put their stone or stones there, it raises the question "Why there? Why in Spain?".

The main reason of doing it is of course personal-level herd behaviour that drives us to imitate what others have done. There, that's my immutable analysis.

I have also occasionally wiped pebbles off way markers and kicked these small stone heaps on the CF to pieces 🤭. Try it, it is quite satisfying. One of my modest personal contributions to trail maintenance. Mainly in the beginning. One mellows with time, and also, these visually polluting eyesores seem to diminish in frequency the closer you get to Galicia and Santiago. Or is that a wrong impression?
 
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Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
also, these visually polluting eyesores seem to diminish in frequency the closer you get to Galicia and Santiago. Or is that a wrong impression?
I never noticed a difference really. Actually, what I did notice is that more of the brass markers on the mojons showing the remaining kilometers left to walk to Santiago were stolen. It was disgusting to see this over and over again. 🤨
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
I understand that there is a huge difference between the practice of stone stacking in pristine areas like National Parks and wilderness areas, and the placing of stones on markers etc on heavily trafficked walking route like the Camino Francis.
I don't follow this line of reasoning. The issue to me is not that different areas have different preserved values. Clearly there are going to be differences among the many different areas, some of it depending on the past and current degree of human activity that has altered the landscape. But that should not, in my view, alter our obligation to be good custodians of these environments. And one of the ways we talk about that today is through the 'leave no trace' principles. They can be applied just as readily on the Camino as in any wilderness area, and I think we should do so.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
IActually, what I did notice is that more of the brass markers on the mojons showing the remaining kilometers left to walk to Santiago were stolen. It was disgusting to see this over and over again. 🤨
A point to ponder: what committee decided that affixing expensive, high scrap value, Brass plaques to Mojones was a better idea than simply cutting the numbers into the stone. I don't suppose many Pilgrims availed themselves of half-a-kilo of compound metal but I can imagine a whole range of likely-lads who could have done with the €'s.
 

wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-Santiago-Finistera-Muxia. April/May 2012
Sarria-Santiago Sept. 2013
SJPP - Almost Orrison April 2014
A point to ponder: what committee decided that affixing expensive, high scrap value, Brass plaques to Mojones was a better idea than simply cutting the numbers into the stone. I don't suppose many Pilgrims availed themselves of half-a-kilo of compound metal but I can imagine a whole range of likely-lads who could have done with the €'s.
Great point, but I suppose there was grant money to be used up, again and again.
As to the OP, are we making a mountain out of a cairn?
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and back (no name; Tours; Francés; sea; no name)
Actually, what I did notice is that more of the brass markers on the mojons showing the remaining kilometers left to walk to Santiago were stolen. It was disgusting to see this over and over again. 🤨
You know, I had read about the missing brass markers on the mojones in Galicia but when we walked last year on the CF in Galicia in November 2019, there were definitely lots of brass markers in place. I remember because I tend to roll my eyes each time I see the 3 digits after the decimal comma.

So I wondered whether a) some bright button in the administration had figured out a method of fixing the plates more permanently to the stone or b) they had not yet been placed on these new stone markers when so many people reported them missing earlier on the forum. 🤔
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
My last time walking on the Frances through Galicia was in 2017 and there were plenty missing then. The thick glue was left behind so they were definitely removed by vandals as the mojones themselves were quite new.
Possibly the brass plates were replaced by 2019.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Glue that keeps metal and stone together? Let's hope the km brass plates didn't fall off by themselves. Nothing would surprise me ... 😂.
Well, glue was just the best word I thought of to describe what I saw.🙃
Maybe it was super glue, gorilla glue, epoxy...or, or, or!😛
 

peterbells

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Sept 2018 (Sarria to Santiago), repeating Sept 2019
This discussion seems to have strayed a lot from original topic. The Camino is different and for some is a personal pilgrimage and I always thought leaving a stone for a deceased loved one was an accepted practice.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
Not sure what you are referring to @peterbells? There is a modern tradition of leaving a stone at the Iron Cross as a symbol of a burden set down and left behind you as you continue your pilgrimage - endless seeming debate here has never identified the roots of that tradition. The Way, the movie, planted a notion of the camino as a reliquary process in the minds of many but the Camino de Santiago was, historically at least, a simple pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle - Spiritually rewarding perhaps but containing no particular relationship to those gone before or beyond.
The OP recycled an oft discussed topic: people putting stones in piles for aesthetic/ un-aesthetic reasons. Nothing to do with how you or anyone else might choose to memorialize their dead.
 

jsalt

Jill
Camino(s) past & future
Portugués, Francés, LePuy, Rota Vicentina, Norte, Madrid, C2C, Salvador, Primitivo, Aragonés, Inglés
Occasionally I swipe the stones off the camino markers.

I have done this ever since I read a plaque on one of the memorial crosses to please not add any stones to this grave.

When a camino buddy was horrified at my action, saying that maybe people had added those stones in “remembrance”, I replied, yes, they may have done, but that was a moment in time.

That moment in time has now gone and those people have moved on.
 

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Camino(s) past & future
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
The OP recycled an oft discussed topic: people putting stones in piles for aesthetic/ un-aesthetic reasons. Nothing to do with how you or anyone else might choose to memorialize their dead.
My great-great-grandfather, a Victorian amateur antiquarian, made up these fake standing stones in the 19th century, at the top of the hill above my house, not far from Hadrian's Wall. They're just piles of small stones, but look quite good from a distance and, if the cloud or mist is at the right height, very slightly as if the Scots are invading us again. It's a long way from the nearest road and very difficult to remove the stones, so piling them up made the grass around more healthy and meant we could put more sheep on that bit of upper fell. Aesthetic and (slightly) practical.

IMG_20200731_161047.jpg
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
My great-great-grandfather, a Victorian amateur antiquarian, made up these fake standing stones in the 19th century, at the top of the hill above my house, not far from Hadrian's Wall. They're just piles of small stones, but look quite good from a distance and, if the cloud or mist is at the right height, very slightly as if the Scots are invading us again. It's a long way from the nearest road and very difficult to remove the stones, so piling them up made the grass around more healthy and meant we could put more sheep on that bit of upper fell. Aesthetic and (slightly) practical.
... and was that stone wall fence a result of an earlier generation of stone collection from the surrounding fields?
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
@alansykes has just given me this thought...I love Ireland (and England) and marveled at all the beautiful stone walls in the countryside, used for clearing land, defining property lines, and to keep grazing animals from wandering off. A whole new thought on stone stacking...I'm a bit off piste here, but just thought I'd make a mention.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
My great-great-grandfather, a Victorian amateur antiquarian, made up these fake standing stones in the 19th century, at the top of the hill above my house, not far from Hadrian's Wall. They're just piles of small stones, but look quite good from a distance and, if the cloud or mist is at the right height, very slightly as if the Scots are invading us again. It's a long way from the nearest road and very difficult to remove the stones, so piling them up made the grass around more healthy and meant we could put more sheep on that bit of upper fell. Aesthetic and (slightly) practical.

View attachment 79821
I'm instantly minded of this: https://www.visitcumbria.com/evnp/nine-standards/

when viewed from the vale they loom, a threat, against the darkening sky.

It's amazing what you can do with a rock innit?
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante

Paladina

old woman of the roads
Camino(s) past & future
CF, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles etc (2018), Mozarabe etc (2019), tbc (2020)
@alansykes has just given me this thought...I love Ireland (and England) and marveled at all the beautiful stone walls in the countryside, used for clearing land, defining property lines, and to keep grazing animals from wandering off. A whole new thought on stone stacking...I'm a bit off piste here, but just thought I'd make a mention.
Ah yes, but if you live in dry stone wall country you'll have personal experience of Robert Frost's 'something there is that doesn't love a wall'.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Ah yes, but if you live in dry stone wall country you'll have personal experience of Robert Frost's 'something there is that doesn't love a wall'.
Thank you, @Paladina for bringing Robert Frost to my attention. I hadn't thought about his poems for a very long time so took a peek on google...wonderful stuff!
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Sorry about that. Posting from my phone while fairly full of a rather nice Rioja. I was referring to the Nine Standards not the cottages. Tomorrow’s gonna be a sober day 😳😉
You can be so funny at times, Tinky, (I mean @Tincatinker)...keep that Rioja in the house.😉
 

OnHellas

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Sept/Oct 2017
Portuguese April 2018 (From Porto)
Used as a way of marking a trail I get. But a sea of stacked stones.....no, all I see then is a lack of imagination. Let’s all copy each other.

Knocking them over puts things back to a more natural state....and is a mildly satisfying use of a moment or two on the way by.
 

Opa Theo

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francais to Santiago
In southern New England, USA I frequently find stacked stones. On subsequent hikes these stones are usually pushed over. Suppose bears or other hikers disapprove. I've seen some piles that involve heavy rocks. These are potentially dangerous to small children. I do not feel strongly about these. What I do marvel is that our area has a thriving population of Copper Head snakes which are poisonous. There are also large non poisonous snakes which will bite.
Where I draw the line is people building these towers in streams and rivers. Moving rocks around harms the insects which live in these waters which reduces the health of that waterway.
 

MTtoCamino

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francis SJPdP to Finnestere April(2014)
I personally find it fascinating that this is an issue, obviously we all need more walking time. As I simply believe we carry a rock from home, build houses, courtyards & other useful things. Why get worked up over someone stacking or balancing stones. The human footprint is not going away.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
I personally find it fascinating that this is an issue, obviously we all need more walking time. As I simply believe we carry a rock from home, build houses, courtyards & other useful things. Why get worked up over someone stacking or balancing stones. The human footprint is not going away.
You might have missed my earlier response on the question of buildings, which was:

Raising the issue of building, even perhaps things are are quite temporary in nature, is a distraction in my view. Yes, we do that, and we decorate and enhance those buildings in ways well beyond what is required merely for functionality. We like to live in elegant surroundings, and I have no difficulty with making our own built environment pleasing as well as functional.

But we now have well over a century of deliberately preserving areas of natural and cultural significance in national or similarly protected parks and places, starting in the US around the turn of the 20thC. Even outside of these well protected areas, I believe we have a moral obligation to leave having made as little change as possible. Leave only footprints.
 

MTtoCamino

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francis SJPdP to Finnestere April(2014)
I
You might have missed my earlier response on the question of buildings, which was:
Yes I did miss that, my only response is that we can’t decide for others what drives them to stack or balance rock, I found it interesting where I picked my rock to carry on the Camino someone decided to balance rocks in the exact location. Call me crazy but there is a connection we bring when we leave our stone.
Ever ask yourself why Stonehenge exists? There are many levels of spiritual knowledge. I am very much a Christian but we do not have all the answers. So I get the leave no trace but we also have to keep an open mind to what others may find spiritual.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Portugues '15, '16, & '19
Via Francigena '17
Frances '18
Muxia & Finisterre '18
Tahoe Rim Trail '19
The article referenced above describes its use by the Inuit, native peoples of Northern Canada, as a direction and location marker, with so many useful purposes that it has its own symbolic language. Examples which I have seen often look like a rough stone statue of a person, made of slabs of stone with an arm pointing in some direction. I cannot offer you details, but find imitations in National Parks to be offensive and (literally) pointless.
There is a place for cairns but it certainly is not on well established trails. I feel it is best to limit your impact or presence in the wilderness.
 

Elizabeth Cheung

Existential Sherpa
Camino(s) past & future
Let's just say I've been around ;-)
Ugh. These kinds of posts always go down a dark path. I live in the Rockies. I am also Indigenous/mix. Cairns and inuskuks have significance in marking ancient and current tribal routes and places of spiritual significance. I can’t speak for Spain but if you are in the wilderness in North America please consider who’s land you really are on and not assume everything stacked there is for the benefit of white people’s egos. Also in regards to some posts about hiking other routes in the world, I’ve also been on remote routes in other countries where those rock cairns you think are just being added to for a photo op are there to indicate that is the safest route out and a rock added tells you others have been this way and it’s safe. As far as the Camino goes if leaving a stone makes a person feel better it’s the least of my worries about whether or not they just made an environmental faux pax.
 

peterbells

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Sept 2018 (Sarria to Santiago), repeating Sept 2019
Not sure what you are referring to @peterbells? There is a modern tradition of leaving a stone at the Iron Cross as a symbol of a burden set down and left behind you as you continue your pilgrimage - endless seeming debate here has never identified the roots of that tradition. The Way, the movie, planted a notion of the camino as a reliquary process in the minds of many but the Camino de Santiago was, historically at least, a simple pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle - Spiritually rewarding perhaps but containing no particular relationship to those gone before or beyond.
The OP recycled an oft discussed topic: people putting stones in piles for aesthetic/ un-aesthetic reasons. Nothing to do with how you or anyone else might choose to memorialize their dead.
Sorry but do not understand point you are trying to make including last sentence and word memorialize. What is OP?
When I did my first Camino I found various comments about leaving a stone not just in memory but also something (cannot remember exact words now) about writing a word/phrase on a stone about something that concerns you and the leaving of the stone lets you "leave that matter" on the Camino as a way of starting afresh.
Is this another example of Camino meaning different things to different people.
Buen Camino.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
Sorry but do not understand point you are trying to make including last sentence and word memorialize. What is OP?
When I did my first Camino I found various comments about leaving a stone not just in memory but also something (cannot remember exact words now) about writing a word/phrase on a stone about something that concerns you and the leaving of the stone lets you "leave that matter" on the Camino as a way of starting afresh.
Is this another example of Camino meaning different things to different people.
Buen Camino.
I was responding to your post: "This discussion seems to have strayed a lot from original topic. The Camino is different and for some is a personal pilgrimage and I always thought leaving a stone for a deceased loved one was an accepted practice."

Memorialize - action undertaken in memory of...
OP - Original Post / Poster
The OP in this thread was about rock stacks, not pebbles.
Indeed, leaving a small stone for the deceased is accepted practice. Making Rock stacks, Pyramids, random cairns in inappropriate locations ain't, at least in the lights of some it ain't.
 

Beeman

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo,2017,Argonne and salvador,sept.2019
Having read all of the posts,I am indeed puzzled. With the virus rampaging in Spain and around the world,fretting about stacks on rocks would only seemingly come from a well-fed,comfortable,developed country. I missed the one place on The Aragonne last fall that had a patch od stone-stacking,and was sorry that i had. Perhaps the frances is pestered by many of these things,i do not know. Many years ago I came upon a stone pile high in the cascades in the goat rocks,and I marveled at its size and beauty. It showed that many people had come this way before,which did not take away from my own experience. We can all march to our own music. If you want to add a stone,good. If you want to tear a pile down,good. Either was,it would seem that you are not hurting anyone. Some people leave stones,some leave crosses in fences. I do not care for these,but it must have meant something to someone who passed this was. Cannot we become less of a dictator of our own pleasures and views?
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia (May 2016)
C. Frances (Sept 2017)
Camino Portugues (June 2019)
Stone cairns are another thing completely. I have followed ancient (still maintained) cairns here in New Mexico to find indigenous ancestral ruins. I've been thankful for them on faint trails in the Rocky Mountains, too. The first time I saw a big series of stacked rocks on the Camino.... I believe it was a long, steep downhill section... I laughed out loud. I could just see all the people suffering from the long uphill and then the steep, eroded downhill, taking breaks and adding to the madness. Later on the trail, I got sick of them. Also the stones stacked on markers. Worse was the graffiti, though.

I'm quite sure we will never have an impact on any of this and it's a waste of energy being frustrated about it. Not that I can ever seem to resist being frustrated and angry about how I think everything SHOULD be in the world. Was it the writer Gore Vidal who said, " There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise." (and sadly, those of you who continue to wear convertible pants and macabe skirts still won't listen to me, either).
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
" There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise." (and sadly, those of you who continue to wear convertible pants and macabe skirts still won't listen to me, either).
Jill, you just gave me a good laugh at the end of my day!
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016), VDLP (2017), Mozarabe (2018), Vasco/Bayona (2019)
These kinds of posts always go down a dark path.
" There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise." (and sadly, those of you who continue to wear convertible pants and macabe skirts still won't listen to me, either).
I can’t believe this has devolved into policing clothing choices on a Camino.
You completely missed @JillGat 's self-deprecating humour.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
Yes I did miss that, my only response is that we can’t decide for others what drives them to stack or balance rock
Indeed, and in a more general sense as well. But we can all challenge ourselves to think more deeply about these issues, whether it be the particulars of stone stacking or our broader impact upon our environment.
 

tony l

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
September 2018
In a world of so many big problems I am concerned that energy is given to this. As with life the answer is balance. Cairns are a part of history and serve some purpose. Educate all to respect them and the land. Do not remove them but teach yourself and children to understand the effect our actions have on the land. Perspective please and keep yourselves and the planet as well as possible.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
In a world of so many big problems I am concerned that energy is given to this.
It's sad that you think that matters associated with preserving and protecting the environment are unworthy of discussion on this forum. Perhaps you would like to start discussions on some of your more important problems rather than sniping at those of us who are contributing to this discussion. After all, wasn't it you that posted:
When someone tells a story or shares a view there is always someone who wants to belittle or put down the comment. Its much easier to use your energy to be kind. Try it please.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
I find the practice of stone stacking along the Camino to be a bit silly, and when the piles/stacks get large the are a bit of an eyesore IMO, and hardly resemble a stone cairn of ancient times. It also to me falls under the category of one of those hip things to do when walking the Camino that has evolved from media about the walk. Stone stacking. Burning your clothes and shoes in Muxia/Finisterre (please do not ever do that...it's wrong for so many reasons). Tossing a rock or some other bit of something on that pile at Cruz de Ferro. Camino families. Eating pulpo. Dangling a shell of your pack. A few other things I cannot think of right now.
Yes, some of those things are nice, but it is okay to buck the trend.
Mind you, stone stacking falls waaaay down on my list on Camino peeves. It is far overshadowed by acts of idiocy such as graffiti along the Camino. Trash, garbage and shit strewn on the route. Cheap Charlie's that can afford to pay at donativo's but do not. Destruction, defacing of the kilometre markers on the route. Apishly prying off the brass plate so it becomes some type of childish souvenir. Selfish, rude behavior in albergues.
 

tony l

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
September 2018
It's sad that you think that matters associated with preserving and protecting the environment are unworthy of discussion on this forum. Perhaps you would like to start discussions on some of your more important problems rather than sniping at those of us who are contributing to this discussion. After all, wasn't it you that posted:
Dear Sir - Sorry if my comment made you sad. I did not snipe. I said and am concerned. I also asked for balance and to look after the land and for education. There are many worthy environmental issues which I believe in. Sadly they are not being addressed fully. If we look to a balance life we go some way to helping on most of these issues.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
Dear Sir - Sorry if my comment made you sad. I did not snipe. I said and am concerned. I also asked for balance and to look after the land and for education. There are many worthy environmental issues which I believe in. Sadly they are not being addressed fully. If we look to a balance life we go some way to helping on most of these issues.
I think it's time for me to let others continue if they wish. This thread meandered along for over 80 posts with quite a lot of back and forth that seemed generally to respect the positions taken by others. Effectively disparaging everyone for wasting our energy seems an odd way to preamble one's contribution. I don't understand most of this response, and don't have the energy right now to try and decipher it.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
There is a place for cairns but it certainly is not on well established trails. I feel it is best to limit your impact or presence in the wilderness.
I'm just not sure I would consider the Camino "wilderness" in the same way that I would consider the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail "wilderness". It is a cultural route through mostly populated areas. You spend a heck of a lot more time walking through farmland or villages than you do through untouched wilderness.

Which isn't to say rock piles are welcome - or unwelcome. Just that the marks of our passing, either contributed directly for ourselves or through what we as a group have led to, are an integral part of the Camino. Some of this is certainly unwelcome (toilet paper, tagging, etc.). Some is welcome. I don't have a strong opinion which category rock piles belong in. But I do disagree with the idea that the Camino would be better if it looked as if no pilgrims ever passed through, which is the essence of "leave no trace".
 
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JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia (May 2016)
C. Frances (Sept 2017)
Camino Portugues (June 2019)
I find the practice of stone stacking along the Camino to be a bit silly, and when the piles/stacks get large the are a bit of an eyesore IMO, and hardly resemble a stone cairn of ancient times. It also to me falls under the category of one of those hip things to do when walking the Camino that has evolved from media about the walk. Stone stacking. Burning your clothes and shoes in Muxia/Finisterre (please do not ever do that...it's wrong for so many reasons). Tossing a rock or some other bit of something on that pile at Cruz de Ferro. Camino families. Eating pulpo. Dangling a shell of your pack. A few other things I cannot think of right now.
Yes, some of those things are nice, but it is okay to buck the trend.
Mind you, stone stacking falls waaaay down on my list on Camino peeves. It is far overshadowed by acts of idiocy such as graffiti along the Camino. Trash, garbage and shit strewn on the route. Cheap Charlie's that can afford to pay at donativo's but do not. Destruction, defacing of the kilometre markers on the route. Apishly prying off the brass plate so it becomes some type of childish souvenir. Selfish, rude behavior in albergues.
Thanks a lot. Before, I was slightly annoyed, but now you've reminded me of things that really piss me off.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
Something that was raised on another related thread which seems pertinent to the discussion is the source of the stones that are stacked. The premise of the article at the top of the thread is that the rocks are moved from their natural location, disturbing it and its ecology. I wonder how many pilgrims are walking off into the wikderness to find the rocks they stack vs. picking them up from the middle of the Camino path. The Camino path itself is, I believe, not a natural environment but something of an artificial construct, although it may pass through natural surroundings. If so, moving a rock from the middle of the pathway is not so ecologically damaging. The damage was already done in forming the pathway to begin with. So then the question becomes: is it bad for other reasons to move rocks from the middle of the pathway? Does it damage the path?
I don't know enough about the effects to say for sure. Perhaps it makes it more likely for the path to erode or become overgrown. I know, from an individual pilgrim point of view, it can appear to be helpful. Scattered rocks can be painful to step on and if stepped on wrong can result in turned ankles. So I'm not sure if I object to people who move them around and make them easier to avoid, whether by forming them into shapes like arrows and hearts or by stacking them on the side of the road.
 

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