The famous Pioneer Cabin Tree in Calaveras Big Trees State Park recently fell on Sunday January 9th. A powerful winter storm over the weekend in California was enough to bring down the ancient tree. The storm brought flooding and mudslides, it was said to be the biggest storm to hit the area in more than a decade.

    The famous Pioneer Cabin Tree in Calaveras Big Trees State Park recently fell on Sunday January 9th. A powerful winter storm over the weekend in California was enough to bring down the ancient tree. The storm brought flooding and mudslides, it was said to be the biggest storm to hit the area in more than a decade.

    This particular tree during its lifetime saw horses and cars pass through it for many years. Recently though, only hikers were allowed to walk through the massive tree. It’s unclear exactly how old the tree was, but the trees in the state park are estimated to be more than 1,000 years old. This tree was a Sequoias, which can live for more than 3,000 years.

    The massive tree had been carved into a living tunnel about a century ago. Tunnel trees were created in the 19th century to promote parks and inspire tourism. But cutting a tunnel through a living tree, of course, damages it. The tree was said to be barely alive, and that there was only one branch alive at the top. It also had been weakening and leaning severely to one side for several years.

    The iconic tree was one of just a few tunneled-through Sequoias in California. The most famous was the Wawona Tree, in Yosemite National Park, this tree fell during a winter storm in 1969 at an estimated age of 2,100 years. The other remaining Sequoia tunnels are also dead.  However, there are still three Coastal Redwoods, taller and more slender than Sequoias, with tunnels cut through them. They are all operated by private companies, and they still allow cars to drive through.

    Jim Allday, the volunteer who reported Pioneer Cabin's demise, told the reporters that the tree had "shattered" when it hit the ground on Sunday afternoon, and that people had just walked through it that morning.

    Local flooding could have been the reason the tree fell. On Sunday the trail was practically a river, and was washed out after the storm. The tunnel had graffiti dating to the 1800s, when visitors were encouraged to etch their names into the bark.

    The tree had been among the most popular features of the state park since the late 1800’s  and will be greatly missed.

    Wavra is enrolled in Kristi Swanson’s communications and broadcasting course at CHS.