Lakes in the Clouds between Mount Monroe and Mount Washington within the White Mountains of New Hampshire are a set of tarns formed by a receding glacier. The lakes can be reached on foot. Hikers can ascend via the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail or traverse part of the Crawford Path from the peak of Mount Washington in all seasons following cairns in inclement weather.
A cairn is a physical marker on hard-to-follow trails. Simply put, a cairn is a stack of rocks used for navigation, safety, and marking trails. They are not for aesthetics, picnic or rest stops, or hiding emergency gear. During COVID-19, many more people headed outside to hike and social distancing. Novice hikers saw these cairns and thought others previously left their mark so that they would do the same. Little did they know that park rangers and trail volunteers purposely built them. The visitor-built cairns break the fundamental rule of leaving no trace.
People don’t see it as a problem, but they are causing environmental damage without knowing they did. Cairns are popularly used in the alpine zone or barren flats. Moving the rocks can cause exposing the soil to wind and water erosion, disturbing critters' homes or leading hikers astray.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor