Cairns, have you seen them?

While visiting my youngest child before COVID we went to some favorite spots , one of them being Gooseberry Falls in Duluth MN. The falls are beautiful as are the trees, streams, and foliage. This time when we went to the falls we saw something we had never seen before- Cairns. What are those? Cairns are small piles of rocks. I decided to look up there meaning, if any. The word “cairn” is a pile of rocks placed on top of one another. This is a deep rooted Scottish hillside tradition that signifies respect. That would explain the word for a small pile of rocks pronounced kern which is a Scottish Gaelic word. This tradition of piling rocks some say goes back much further than that. Some archeologists believe cairns were used as landmarks in the prehistoric era. Cairns are also used to mark trails or routes.

Another use is by Buddhist to symbolize wishes for family, respect for a passing loved one. In Hawaii they are called ahu and the Native Americans call these piles of rock wa-wa-an-quas-sick ( place of many good stones ). Cairns can also be memorials. A pile of rocks placed upon a burial site. Actor Dennis Hopper is buried under a cairn in a Native American burial site in Taos, NM. I learn something new every time I travel outside my own little world, and I enjoy seeing and learning new things.

Gooseberry Falls, Duluth MN

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