Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Historic Handrails

Walk the dome.

Blather White of Keep Yosemite Historic, a non-profit organization created by lovers of Yosemite National Park in California, is close to being ecstatic.


Because hundreds of feet of twisted metal cables going up Half Dome's backside are now on the National Register of Historic Places. "These cables are part of our heritage," she said, noting that in 1919, the Sierra Club itself installed the original set.

"In those days they were all organic. The cables were knit by Club members out of goat hair carefully brushed from local animals. No one expected them to become a tradition."

Later on, the cables were replaced by the National Park Service which first used hemp ropes. But these were all cut to pieces and smoked during the 1960s, and that's when the switch to braided steel cables happened. So far no one has tried to smoke those.

For almost a century then, the Half Dome Cables and Trail have allowed random hikers in Bermuda shorts and flipflops with no rock climbing experience to pull themselves to the top of Half Dome and peer over the edge at Little Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, the valley floor, and mountains and stuff.

And a lot of people agree about that being a pretty good reason for the historic designation.

Other recent additions to the National Register of Historic Places include a set of doorknobs from Gates of the Arctic National Park, the original steam-powered haze generator from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a bunch of discarded flashlight batteries and candy wrappers found behind a stalagmite in Mammoth Cave, and Ohio's Cuyahoga River, which caught fire in 1952 and again in 1969.

Maintenance and signage for the Yosemite cable route will be provided by Handrails-R-Us of Merced, California, owned by Wilbur and Blather White, who are also the founders and board of directors of Keep Yosemite Historic.

Full story.