Last year around this time, we were planning a hike up New Hampshire’s Mt. Kearsarge with our four year old. We visited the nearby McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center as well. Unfortunately, I wasn’t visiting this blog space as often as I do now, so the ups and downs of the hike (both literally and figuratively) has been stowed away as a fun memory. Until today, a day as cloudy as the day we hiked up the mountain.
I remember it being a gray dull day, which made the summit look eerily higher than it really was. It was a short steep climb to 2,937 feet, and we were accompanied by the Avengers. It was a time in the past, a fun phase, when our son wouldn’t step out without Captain America in tow. Action figures made for nice photo-ops. And they made greater paperweights for truant napkins. We had a snack near the fire tower at the top. We hung around for a while, taking in the misty nothingness.The fog had cast a wispy blanket, one not too thick, not too dark, but it blocked out the bright rays of the sun just the same.
The cairns had signs telling people not to touch them. But you know how some like to carve their names on boulders and trees, well, there are people who enjoy leaning against strategically placed cairns just because they can.
The word “cairn” comes from Gaelic, and loosely means a “heap of stones”. Norse sailors used them, Tibetan plateaus have them, as do the Andes. They are placed by trail experts – deliberately, painstakingly, and often artfully. We need them to guide us. And keeping with the basic rules of outdoor exploration, we should not move them. Or build new ones out of the blue. When we disturb a cairn, we disturb the soil, and with it the flora and fauna. In short, we mess up the ecosystem of the place.
As the days get longer and warmer, here’s hoping we go on many such hikes. If we are to enjoy the outdoors, we have to take care of our little blue planet. Let’s all do our bit in protecting it.
In keeping with the weekend’s celebrations, Happy Earth Day!