Tag Archives: waldron-bates

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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Waldron’s Warriors: Foot soldiers for Acadia hiking trails

On weekdays, Tim Henderson is a computer repairman. Come the weekend, he’s a Waldron’s Warrior, part of an army of volunteers battling vandalism of Acadia hiking trails, and teaching people about the park’s unique stone trail markers known as Bates cairns.

acadia national park hiking

As a Waldron’s Warrior, Tim Henderson helps to educate people about Bates cairns, and fixes damage to the stone trail markers by vandals. (Photo courtesy of Tim Henderson)

Officially, Ellen Dohmen chairs the Bar Harbor appeals board and serves on the advisory board of Healthy Acadia. Unofficially, she’s the doyenne of Waldron’s Warriors, having trained Henderson of Castine, Dave Hollenbeck of Mount Desert, and a cadre of other caretakers of cairns along Acadia hiking trails.

During peak season, James Linnane works at a Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce information booth. Off-peak, he climbs tough trails like Sargent East Cliffs, fixing cairns as he goes.

About 20 strong this year, the crew of volunteers is the brainchild of Charlie Jacobi, park natural resource specialist, who’s been working to stop the vandalism of Bates cairns, and random rock stacking that violates Leave No Trace® principles.

“It’s an ongoing battle,” said Jacobi, who first came up with the phrase Waldron’s Warriors in 2004, invoking the spirit of Waldron Bates, the Bar Harbor pathmaker who designed the cairns in the early 1900s, to recruit volunteers. “Warriors needed.”

cadillac south ridge trail

A vandal smashed and destroyed the lintel, or horizontal platform, of this Bates cairn, on the Cadillac South Ridge Trail. (Photo by Tim Henderson)

But at times it seems like a losing battle, especially with increased visitation this Centennial year. And it’s not just Acadia that’s facing vandalism of historic and natural resources. A few weeks ago, Death Valley National Park’s iconic Racetrack was defaced by a vehicle that drove across the playa, creating tire tracks that may take years to disappear.

The only thing is to soldier on, and that’s what Waldron’s Warriors do. Continue reading

Message in the rocks: Acadia’s Bates cairns get new focus

One in a series on Acadia’s Bates cairns

Long the target of vandals and errant hikers, the historic cairns of Acadia National Park are the focus of new efforts to recognize and preserve them.

A Bates-style cairn, located off the Champlain North Ridge Trail, overlooks tiny Egg Rock and the Schoodic Peninsula.

A Bates cairn, located on the Champlain North Ridge Trail, overlooks tiny Egg Rock and the Schoodic Peninsula.

Moira O’Neill of Surry and Ranger Judy Hazen Connery have worked together to design an “Anatomy of a Bates Cairn” T-shirt. O’Neill, a registered nurse and a volunteer who helps maintain the cairns, sells the T-shirts on Etsy  to help raise money for trail maintenance.

“If we educate people about the meaning or purpose of the Bates cairn … their attitude then will be to respect them and their purpose,” O’Neill said.

bates cairn

Isaac “Breaux” Higgins, center, explains the importance of protecting the Bates cairn at a recent community dinner at the Bar Harbor Congregational Church, as part of his project to become an Eagle Scout. Accompanying him are fellow Boy Scouts Liam Higgins, his brother, and Jack Beckerley. (Photo courtesy of Bar Harbor Troop 89)

As part of his project to become an Eagle Scout, Isaac “Breaux” Higgins, a senior at Mount Desert Island High School, is raising awareness by collecting signatures on a pledge to respect the cairns.

Higgins and other scouts are also selling the T-shirts for O’Neill’s fundraising for trail work.

The Bates-style cairns are special in the National Park Service and a key part of the history of the trails on Mount Desert Island. They are named for Waldron Bates, chair of the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association Path Committee from 1900-1909, who first designed them. Continue reading

The cairns of Acadia: Objects of wonder, subjects of vandals

One in a series on Acadia’s Bates cairns

The iconic Bates-style cairns of Acadia National Park, Zen-like in their simplicity and historic in nature, keep hikers from getting lost on the trails. But they also attract vandals and random rock-stacking visitors, making trail maintenance a nightmare.

bates cairn

Each Bates-style cairn is unique in coloring, size and shape, such as this one along the Dorr North Ridge Trail.

A couple of years ago, vandals knocked over nearly all the cairns on the Cadillac South Ridge Trail, even shattering some of the rocks. And every season, visitors pile rocks on ridgetops and cobblestone beaches, not knowing that violates park rules, or that it may offend others who come after.

Just last month, a reporter for The Spectrum & Daily News of St. George, Utah, wrote an article entitled “Stacking cairns to commune with nature,” about a family trip to Acadia, featuring pictures of his sons piling rocks on the beach along the Ship Harbor Trail. He reasoned that the next big storm would knock the rocks over, and that it’s not the same as graffiti or vandalism marring national parks.

For park resource specialist Charlie Jacobi, who’s been trying to educate the public for years about leaving Bates-style cairns and other rocks alone, it’s been so disheartening, he almost gave up last year. “I was ready to throw in the towel and say, ‘We can’t do it,’” Jacobi said in an interview. “It is a waste of our time when somebody is undoing the work that you do on a daily basis.”

cairn

Like a mini Stonehenge, this Bates-style cairn stands guard on the Pemetic South Ridge Trail.

It’s against park rules to randomly stack rocks, or to add to or dismantle Bates cairns. The issue of people messing around with cairns or building stone heaps of their own isn’t just dogging Acadia. Earlier this month, National Public Radio focused on the controversy in a piece entitled “Making Mountains Out of Trail Markers? Cairns Spark Debate in Southwest,” spurred by a column in the High Country News, “Stop the rock-stacking.”

Whether the issue is unofficial rock piles in the Southwest or in Acadia, vandalized Bates-style cairns or graffiti in national parks, said Jacobi: “There’s a larger issue here about stewardship of public lands and land trusts and places we love and go to.”

“Leave What You Find,” one of the seven principles developed by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, is the message people need to get, said Jacobi.

“Whether it is rocks or wildflowers or anything else, the little bit of restraint that is needed to share Acadia or any place with thousands and thousands of other people is tough to accept. But I think that is what we need to do,” said Jacobi.

Otherwise there could be rock stacks littering the landscape, or vandalized Bates-style cairns. “I’ve got photos ad nauseum. I’ve got pictures of different things that visitors have built. You could see holes in the soil where rocks have been removed,” said Jacobi. He’s also seen rock stacks piled on a boulder in the middle of Echo Lake, destruction of summit cairns and other random acts.

cairn

This photo of cairn vandalism and rock-stacking on the east face of Dorr Mountain along what is now known as Schiff Path was taken in the late 1990s. (NPS photo provided courtesy of Charlie Jacobi)

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