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  • Writer's pictureGerald Tindal

Day 55: Cairn fairies

KT Man,

The day was spent hiking. Wandering with your momma lama in the morning and my running buddy, Tom Bob, in the afternoon. Wandering about the woods and the trails surrounding Eugene. The hikes are always more vigorous with Linda than Tom Bob. Curious, because he’s such an exercise beast: strong and unrelenting. Put the machine in go and let it go. A perfect match for me with three decades of this: running, hiking, biking.

The afternoon hike through the UO campus was punctuated with the curiosity of sorority rushes so the foot traffic was a bustle. Sisterhood revealed in wishes and pledges, nothing I know about. A hike by the historic Hayward track field no more. Bulldozed down in a day and now a construction site with concrete pillars arising for stands to house thousands of trackers: people who follow track with a passion. Eugene is track city: distinctly so.

It wasn’t until we left campus and hit the Prefontaine Trail that the stride and cadence finally hit, past Autzen Stadium soon to become Oregon’s seventh largest city in the game against Washington, if only for an afternoon. In crossing the Willamette River, the view west was a wondrous sprinkling of cairns. You know the kind built and left by cairn fairies. People who come out sometime in the day/night and build them. In the river and serving no purpose: just art for art’s sake. No one reports ever having seen cairn fairies: The cairns just appear. One day. Happenstance. They were so beautifully mixed in groups and differently formed. Tall and mighty cairns with balance in the sway, likely to be toppled when the river swells in the winter. Cairns in groups, with a connecting bridge of wood and a cairn on the bridge. Small cairns in clusters. All of them purposeless but thoughtful.

These cairns are so different than those on my PCT treks across the northwest with Tom Bob. Cairns in the Cascades are serious markers. Yes, you are on the right trail. This is the way. Keep going to the next one. These cairns are in the high elevation, above the tree line, built when rock replaces soil: vast bedrock, with no trail possible marked by footprints or poles. Usually just a few rocks, stacked on each other, beckoning the way. So comforting. These cairns have purpose and provide direction. But made by cairn fairies nevertheless.

The cairns you built for us are both. They’re artful clusters placed on a river for the sheer joy of viewing, in the rapids. No direction needed: just enjoyment quietly seen from a bridge and a reminder that purpose is over rated and direction not needed. The moment is all that counts. The cairns you built were also of those in the mountains. When direction is needed and purpose counts: focused importance in guiding the way forward. Thanks buddy for building both.

Dad Man

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