Cairns to Crossed Logs: Learn the Language of the Trail

Cairns to Crossed Logs: Learn the Language of the TrailHiking along nature trails may require an ability to read the language of the trail. Trail markers such as rocks, logs and sticks can guide hikers to the right direction when faced with a fork in the way, allowing them to continue on the main path or detour to shelter or side routes.

Rocks and Cairns

Cairns, arranged piles of stones, serve as trail markers in state parks and national parks, including Acadia National Park in Maine, Backpacker magazine notes. They mark open areas such as elevated trails where no trees are present. Hikers in some cases may like to leave a mark and arrange stone piles on trails that they have traveled.

Logs and Sticks

Crossed logs can signify a personal message of one hiking group to another or carry sacred meeting. The stretch of Deer Creek from Lassen Plateau to Sacramento Valley in California has a section named Log X for crossed logs placed along the water trail.

Sticks may serve as directional guides. Native American tribes used broken twig or branches and sticks to mark trails. For example, a broken twig laid on the ground can signal a turn on the trail.

Tree Marks

Cairns to Crossed Logs: Learn the Language of the Trail

Hikers can easily see and interpret blazes on the trunks of trees. Types of blazes include paint, affixed signs or axe blazes. The 2,144-mile Appalachian Trail that runs from Mount Katahdin, Maine to Springer Mountain, Georgia, is marked by diamond-shaped metal blazes to direct hikers along the route. Other tree markers for the Appalachian Trail include painted vertical, rectangular white blazes. Side trails are signaled by blue blazes, which lead to shelters and scenic viewpoints.


Article Written By Rona Aquino

Rona Aquino began writing professionally in 2008. As an avid marathon runner and outdoor enthusiast, she writes on topics of running, fitness and outdoor recreation for various publications. Aquino holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications and English from the University of Maryland College Park.

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