Stone messengers

Southwest Life

Stone messengers

Across wild landscapes, humans build cairns as markers, companions
This large cairn on Middle Mountain in the Weminuche Wilderness is a “stone johnnie,” or “stone boy,” built by sheepherders. The cairn may have been built to indicate distance and direction to water holes, but cairns also were created as a pastime while tending flocks. The Basque term is “harri mutilak” for these sheepherder monuments found on buttes, ridges, hogbacks and mesas across the West.
From this large stone cairn atop Perins Peak hikers have a sweeping view east to all of Durango. An almost identical cairn can be found several miles straight west. Cairns are not low stacked stone trail markers. They are often built off trail and can be seen at quite a distance.
This cairn south of the La Plata Mountains probably was built by sheepherders. It aligns perfectly with a cairn straight east on Perins Peak in the Perins Peak State Wildlife Area.
The word cairn comes from a 16th-century Scottish term and means found stacked stones which have not been shaped, dressed or cut. This cairn in the Flat Tops north of New Castle is one of a half dozen built near Bison Lake as an archaeological feature along the 57-mile long Ute Trail, one of the oldest, highest and longest Native American trails in the U.S.
Stones in a cairn just south of the La Platas display lichen, but because the lichen is not growing between the stones, this is not an ancient cairn. Cairn construction can sometimes be dated by the vivid orange variety of lichen named Xanthoria elegans, which can cement together stones, though lichenologists have done more studies on the genus Rhizocarpon because of its widespread growth and longevity.
Taller than a man, this stone cairn, west of Lightner Creek at the base of the La Plata Mountains, stands like a silent sentinel at sunset. Cairns in the flat expanses of the Arctic help guide travelers and hunters and reassure them that they are not alone.
Cairns in the Flat Top Mountains adjacent to the Flat Tops Wilderness may be sheepherder cairns, but Utes also claim the cairns, which stand above high altitude bison wallows made by an extinct species of mountain bison.
The short stacked cairns at the Nez Perce Smoking Place in the Bitterroot Mountains mark a Native American sacred site. On June 27, 1806, Nez Perce guides insisted that the Lewis and Clark expedition stop on its homeward journey so the guides could offer a pipe ceremony to the Creator.
A cairn atop Madden Peak in the La Plata Mountains has been built over time by climbers eager to add a stone. Set in cracked concrete nearby, a U.S. Geological Survey marker from 1934 pegs the peak at 11,972 feet.
Native American cairns on historic Yakama land on the high plateau south of the Columbia River in Washington represent tribal families and clans and also delineate ancient boundary markers for fishing rights.

Stone messengers

This large cairn on Middle Mountain in the Weminuche Wilderness is a “stone johnnie,” or “stone boy,” built by sheepherders. The cairn may have been built to indicate distance and direction to water holes, but cairns also were created as a pastime while tending flocks. The Basque term is “harri mutilak” for these sheepherder monuments found on buttes, ridges, hogbacks and mesas across the West.
From this large stone cairn atop Perins Peak hikers have a sweeping view east to all of Durango. An almost identical cairn can be found several miles straight west. Cairns are not low stacked stone trail markers. They are often built off trail and can be seen at quite a distance.
This cairn south of the La Plata Mountains probably was built by sheepherders. It aligns perfectly with a cairn straight east on Perins Peak in the Perins Peak State Wildlife Area.
The word cairn comes from a 16th-century Scottish term and means found stacked stones which have not been shaped, dressed or cut. This cairn in the Flat Tops north of New Castle is one of a half dozen built near Bison Lake as an archaeological feature along the 57-mile long Ute Trail, one of the oldest, highest and longest Native American trails in the U.S.
Stones in a cairn just south of the La Platas display lichen, but because the lichen is not growing between the stones, this is not an ancient cairn. Cairn construction can sometimes be dated by the vivid orange variety of lichen named Xanthoria elegans, which can cement together stones, though lichenologists have done more studies on the genus Rhizocarpon because of its widespread growth and longevity.
Taller than a man, this stone cairn, west of Lightner Creek at the base of the La Plata Mountains, stands like a silent sentinel at sunset. Cairns in the flat expanses of the Arctic help guide travelers and hunters and reassure them that they are not alone.
Cairns in the Flat Top Mountains adjacent to the Flat Tops Wilderness may be sheepherder cairns, but Utes also claim the cairns, which stand above high altitude bison wallows made by an extinct species of mountain bison.
The short stacked cairns at the Nez Perce Smoking Place in the Bitterroot Mountains mark a Native American sacred site. On June 27, 1806, Nez Perce guides insisted that the Lewis and Clark expedition stop on its homeward journey so the guides could offer a pipe ceremony to the Creator.
A cairn atop Madden Peak in the La Plata Mountains has been built over time by climbers eager to add a stone. Set in cracked concrete nearby, a U.S. Geological Survey marker from 1934 pegs the peak at 11,972 feet.
Native American cairns on historic Yakama land on the high plateau south of the Columbia River in Washington represent tribal families and clans and also delineate ancient boundary markers for fishing rights.
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