The beloved giant California sequoia known as The Pioneer Cabin Tree has fallen due to intense winter storms that swept through the Calaveras area this past weekend.
The sad discovery was made by one of the State Park’s volunteers, Jim Allday, who had taken a walk to assess the damage on the morning of Sunday the 8th. In regards to his finding, he told SF Gate that when the tree initially fell, it had “shattered.” Allday explains, “I could see the tree on the ground, it looked like it was laying in a pond or lake with a river running through it.”
In an official statement from their Facebook page, the Calaveras Big Trees Association confirmed the reports by saying, “The Pioneer Cabin Tree has fallen! The iconic and still living tree—the tunnel tree—enchanted many visitors. The storm was too much for it.”
The said storm was actually the largest of its kind to hit the Calaveras County area in more than a decade. It lead to massive flooding which many believe contributed to the tree’s untimely demise.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the hollowing of the tree some 150 years ago weakened its roots, making it more brittle and susceptible to falls.
Joan Allday, the wife of Jim Allday and fellow State Park volunteer, mentioned that the toppling of this particular tree came as no surprise to her. She explains, “It [the tree] was barely alive, there was one branch alive at the top. But it was very brittle and starting to lift.”
Though the exact age is yet to be learned, experts believe that it could be over 1,000 years old. At the time of the fateful storm, the giant sequoia measured a massive 33 feet in diameter.
The tree itself first gained notoriety in the late 1800’s when a private landowner ordered a company to construct a tunnel which was drilled into its bottom half for tourists and hikers to enjoy. Throughout the past three centuries, the tree had served as both a pedestrian path and even, at times, a drive-through tunnel for automobiles.
The “tunnel tree” was originally chosen to be hollowed out because its base was already partially cracked and exposed due to forest fires in the latter part of the 19th-century.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park houses giant redwoods, known as sequoias in its well-known North Grove, an area that has been protected since the park’s opening in 1931.