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Stone-stacking by tourists as a "natural" disturbance

joe

500+ Posts
Stone-stacking - or any other kind of seemingly "natural" physical signs that we leave in some place - have become a plague in what used to be relatively deserted locations. From the article in The Guardian :

"Our personal monuments turn empty landscapes into peopled places. When we reach a remote summit or deserted beach, we know people have stepped there before, but for a moment we can enjoy a place where humans do not predominate.
No longer. A forest of stacked stones destroys all sense of the wild."

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/17/stone-stacking-instagram-environment-adventure-tourism?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

I see quite a bit of this in the desert, as rocks abound, and the temptation to leave a mark always exists.
 

Kathy

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
We saw two guys stacking stones on a beach in St. Ives (Cornwall) this past spring. I don't know if their project was going to survive the high tide...

20180423_132830.jpg


In some areas of the UK, where signposts or markers for walkers aren't permitted on moors, there are stone cairns to mark the way. But this is for a purpose, not for "art" or social media. I realize now I have seen these artsy stacked stones in other places and never quite understood them.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
I’ve seen this twice on this trip. It is odd. In some ways I like it. Better than graffiti. The first time I saw this was at a huge dolmen in County Clare, Ireland, in 1992. The stone field beside the dolmen was filled with small replicas. There were hundreds of them. And recently on the Amalfi Coast, on the Path of the Gods trail, there is a spot with many piles of stones.

8094FAC5-76A1-415B-80FE-B03CB28A4D8C.jpeg

In Lenk, on the path up to Siebenbrunnen.
 

Belinda6

New Member
It is better than graffiti, yes, and much better than those locks on bridges, which I think are awful and communities should ban. I didn't realize the stacked rocks thing was a thing until reading this.
 

Chris

500+ Posts
Hmm. I have mixed feelings about this. Andy Goldsworthy is probably my favorite artist, and in most of these cases I can't see where any harm has been done. Even that mess on the trail up to Buoux could probably be undone in just a few minutes by scattering the rocks. I'd rather see these little arrangements than Don't Touch The Rocks signs.
 

mortlipp

New Member
We saw quite a lot of this in outback Australia and I'm not a fan. I admit to deconstructing some of these piles of stones and sending them back into the wild where they belong. But I agree with Chris about the signs being worse. We saw many signs adhered to the rocks in Karijini Gorge telling people not to climb the rocks, or signs with pictures of people falling with a cross through them. People still climbed up the rocks and the signs just ruin the natural environment. Australia is the worst place for signs telling people what to do, to be careful of this and that, don't do this or that! It must be something to do with potential litigation in National Parks if someone is silly enough to climb where it is dangerous and slips.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
This is for you @joe. We came across several stone stacks on a threshing floor out in the desert near Mitzpe Ramon (Israel). This area has several cisterns (Loz Cisterns) from the Israelite period (Iron Age, 10-8th century BC), so I assume this threshing floor is pre-Roman. We’d been walking for over an hour when we came across it and were dismayed to see such evidence of other hikers. So I kicked one over, then took a photo.

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joe

500+ Posts
Indeed another display of people thinking they are being creative, or believing they are "blending in" with the desert. Strange that the reserve wardens don't destroy these stone piles, and that there are no signs discouraging such "art".
Just remember if you go to kick them over to make sure that your toes are well protected! ;)
 

Sara

10+ Posts
On mountain trails they are used as a useful indication about which way to go if the trail is unclear, badly marked or non-existant, some trails are only marked in this way, so don't kick them over if you find them in this situation, they prevent people from getting lost.
Oh I see! Honestly the trails where I saw them were quite clear, I assumed they were just signs put there in order to affirm: "I have been here".
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
On mountain trails they are used as a useful indication about which way to go if the trail is unclear, badly marked or non-existant, some trails are only marked in this way, so don't kick them over if you find them in this situation, they prevent people from getting lost.
I am familiar with these and would never destroy or move a trail marker. Although it has been a long time since I’ve seen rock piles marking a trail. Now people use paint on trees and put logs across a path to indicate it is not the path to take.

These stone stacks are not marking a trail and there are many of them, usually in some interesting spot. They are definitely an “I’ve been here” kind of marker. Like those in the Cinque Terre photos above. Similar idea to those “love locks” you see now, where people put a lock on a bridge or railing to demonstrate their “love”.

I don’t know why Stone stacks are so annoying to me. Probably because they interrupt the flow of the scenery by being man made.
 

Sara

10+ Posts
Although it has been a long time since I’ve seen rock piles marking a trail. Now people use paint on trees and put logs across a path to indicate it is not the path to take.
Exactly! In Italy the people that have the task to clean and mark the trails (with white and red paint on the trees and rocks) are the members of CAI - Club Alpino Italiano.

Similar idea to those “love locks” you see now, where people put a lock on a bridge or railing to demonstrate their “love”.
Omg, I personally hate the love locks...they ruin monuments and can also be very dangerous. Lamp posts even collapsed because of them!
 

Tina

10+ Posts
Official trails should be marked in red and white, it depends where you go, probably places where there are lots of tourists are well-marked, off the beaten track paint can be so faded it's difficult to find and on less popular and unmarked trails little piles of stones are very welcome when you are wondering which way to go.....
 

Sara

10+ Posts
Official trails should be marked in red and white, it depends where you go, probably places where there are lots of tourists are well-marked, off the beaten track paint can be so faded it's difficult to find and on less popular and unmarked trails little piles of stones are very welcome when you are wondering which way to go.....
I see, thanks for explaining. I usually trek only on marked trails, so I never figured out this.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
This issue is discussed in today’s Washington Post.

Tourists left lewd messages on an Australian beach. Locals were forced to clean up behind them.
 Drew Jones
, December 5

It’s just the latest time outsiders behaved badly, and some governments across the globe are fed up

From the article:
“Tourists at the Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye, in Scotland, have engaged in a stone-stacking ritual, piling stones into towers not to be used as hikers’ wayfinding cairns, but posed against a serene backdrop. Locals said that even though enthusiasts called the practice “meditative” and “artistic,” it was actually causing coastal erosion to speed up in the Scottish Highlands.”
 

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