Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
In the early days of tourism to Yosemite, when Half Dome was thought to be un-climbable, travelers went by stage coach from San Francisco over dirt roads. The first route was over a path called the Yosemite-Coulterville Toll Road. It linked the town of Coulterville to the western area of the park and into the Valley. This was a dusty, long trip. But to break it up, travelers stopped along the way at what is called Bower Cave. With a little hunting I was able to find it. It’s right on that old Road, and just a half mile east the asphalt disappears and the road continues roughly as it did in the 1850’s.
I’ve not been that far and a 4-wheel drive is suggested or you will stress your nice “touring sedan.” Anyway, the cave was named – not after a person – but after the term “bower” which means twined shelter. It’s really more of a sinkhole with an overhang. The “grotto” is about 100 feet in diameter.
In the hey-day, a band platform was built and visitors danced the night away on a wooden dance floor en route to Yosemite.
It was so popular that a eight-room hotel was built at the site. In the 1920’s the Big Oak Flat Road (today’s Highway 120) was completed and the site gradually died off. In the 1960’s and 70’s scuba divers found underwater passages reaching back about 1,000 feet. Today nature has reclaimed most of the site. To get beyond the locked gate, you need a free permit from the current owner, the Forest Service. They give you a permit and the comination lock numbers. A large plaque on the road describes the old Toll Road. A 10-minute walk takes you to the cave. Don’t expect Carlsbad, like I say it’s more of a big hole with the bottom about 40-feet below the surface. Water sits like a small pond in the middle. Due to Indian spiritual believes, you are not permitted into the “grotto.” (Although a knotted rope rappel looks inviting.) Ladders existed in the olden days. Check it out after your next Half Dome hike.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong. And everywhere was a song and a celebration. And I dreamed I saw the bomber jet planes riding shotgun in the sky, turning into butterflies above our nation.” – Crosby, Stills and Nash
*Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com