“Each of us is carving a stone, erecting a column, or cutting a piece of stained glass in the construction of something much bigger than ourselves.”
Today, cairns are built for many purposes. The most common use in North America and Northern Europe is to mark mountain bike and hiking trails and other cross-country trail blazing, especially in mountain regions at or above the tree line… Placed at regular intervals, a series of cairns can be used to indicate a path across stony or barren terrain, even across glaciers. Such cairns are often placed at junctions or in places where the trail direction is not obvious, and may also be used to indicate an obscured danger, such as a sudden drop, or a noteworthy point such as the summit of a mountain.
Although the practice is not common in English, cairns are sometimes referred to by their anthropomorphic qualities. In German and Dutch, a cairn is known as steinmann and steenman respectively, meaning literally “stone man”. A form of the Inuit inuksuk is also meant to represent a human figure, and is called an inunguak (“imitation of a person”). In Italy, especially the Italian Alps, a cairn is an ometto, or a “small man”. Wikipedia
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