YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK — A rocky trail and hundreds of feet of twisted metal cables might not immediately conjure an image of something worthy of historical preservation.
But when the trail leads to the iconic Half Dome in Yosemite National Park and the cables allow armchair wilderness lovers to ascend the once-inaccessible granite monolith, the significance was enough for a spot on the list of National Register of Historic Places.
The designation at the end of August went virtually unnoticed, but the Half Dome was still on the minds of hikers and wilderness advocates, who are awaiting the park's final assessment of a plan to permanently limit access to a place on many outdoor lovers' bucket lists.
The park is weighing the hike's incredible popularity — one of the busiest of any trail in the National Park's federally designated wilderness areas — against the protections from the intrusion of man in wild areas. One option under consideration is removing the cables that assist climbers up and down the steep granite.
"Clearly handrails and other aids aren't appropriate in the wilderness," said George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch, which has threatened to sue to have the cables removed and argued against them during the plan's comment period.