Tag Archives: bates-cairns

On patrol with stewards of Acadia’s stone cairns, summits

One in a series on Acadia’s Bates cairns

Within minutes of stepping onto the popular Cadillac South Ridge Trail, Tim Henderson spots a couple of Acadia stone cairns vandalized by passersby.

acadia national park hiking

Tim Henderson gets ready to dismantle a random rock stack marring a Bates cairn on the Cadillac South Ridge Trail.

“These two cairns are usually broken, destroyed, knocked over or piled up with stones, because it is easy access,” said Henderson, one of an army of volunteer keepers of Acadia’s stone cairns known as Waldron’s Warriors, who patrol the park’s ridges, summmits and trails, along with Friends of Acadia-supported Summit Stewards.

“It irritates me that people are disrespectful. Obviously we have taken the time to build these to help people and they get destroyed, I assume, maliciously. Yes, it irritates me,” said Henderson, as he proceeded to fix the damaged trail markers.

Henderson is in his third season as a Waldron’s Warrior, named after Waldron Bates, the pathmaker who first came up with the distinctive trail markers known as Bates cairns in the early 1900s.

The cairns are like mini-architectural wonders, positioned just so, with 2 columns of 2 to 4 base stones, a lintel stone across the top, and a pointer stone indicating the direction of the trail.

acadia national park hiking

Bates cairns are particularly critical in pointing the way in foggy weather. (Photo by Tim Henderson)

Bates cairns fell into disuse over the years, replaced by conical rock piles. But they were revived in 2001, as a way to tie the park to a key part of its history, guide hikers and protect the fragile mountain terrain by keeping people on the trails. The Bates-style cairns give Acadia a special brand.

Even though the park posts signs and works to educate people, visitors often dismantle the cairns or pile loose rocks on them, ruining their character and violating park rules.

Henderson and other stewards of Acadia’s stone cairns and summits do their best to fight against the tide.

Wearing protective gloves and other gear for the chilly May day that he’s on patrol on the Cadillac South Ridge, Henderson takes down randomly stacked rocks, rebuilds destroyed Bates cairns, and otherwise maintains the trail markers that are critical for safe passage.

“They are for safety. They are there to help guide hikers. Unless you hike a lot and you hike in bad weather, you don’t understand how important they are,” said Henderson, who is so passionate about Acadia’s trails, he will drive more than an hour from his home in Castine to serve as a Waldron’s Warrior, even bringing his wife Jennifer along on a recent trip to celebrate their anniversary in a unique way.

“Whether it is snow, or fog, or rain, you need these cairns,” said Henderson, who owns a computer repair and service business, called PC-fitness Computer Services, and writes a blog, www.HikingMaineiacs.com, with his wife.

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