The Pioneer Cabin Tree in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, California recently succumbed to a winter storm, breaking the hearts of treehuggers everywhere. The majestic sequoia tree, which was tunneled sometime in the 1880’s to allow thousands of people to pass beneath it, crashed down over the weekend.
Calaveras Big Trees Association wrote in a January 8 Facebook post, “The Pioneer Cabin tree has fallen! This iconic and still living tree – the tunnel tree – enchanted many visitors. The storm was just too much for it.” Trees have died in the tunneling process, such as Yosemite’s Wawona Tunnel Tree, which was carved in 1881 but fell in 1969. In contrast to the Yosemite landmark which inspired it, the Pioneer Cabin Tree still showed signs of life.
Park volunteer Jim Allday said people walked beneath the tree on Sunday morning, but around 2PM local time the tree fell and “shattered” when it hit the ground. Jim’s wife Joan, also a volunteer, told SFGate, “It was barely alive, there was one branch alive at the top. But it was very brittle and starting to lift.”
Way back in 1990, interpretive specialist Wendy Harrison wrote in a Calaveras Big Trees State Park guide, “The pioneer cabin tree was chosen because of its extremely wide base and large fire scar. A few branches bearing green foliage tell us that this tree is still managing to survive.” Harrison described how Calveras Big Trees State Park used to be a popular tourist destination until the roads to Yosemite were improved, and the Calaveras park tried to lure tourists back by carving the Pioneer Cabin tree in the late 1800’s.
According to SFGate, cars were once allowed to drive beneath the Pioneer Cabin Tree, but more recently the park only allowed people to pass under on foot.