For folks visiting the Calaveras Big Tree State Park in California, the historic Pioneer Cabin Tree was an icon. In the 1880s, it was one of the huge sequoias turned into a “tunnel tree”—a massive hole was cut into its base, large enough for a car to drive through. Although this pathway looks impressive, it made the Pioneer Cabin Tree (and others like it) susceptible to the damaging effects of powerful storms. This particular plant was the last of these tunnel trees, and this past week, it too succumbed to the elements and toppled over from heavy rain and snow.
The Calaveras Big Trees Association said that the “storm was just too much for it [the tree].” Volunteer Jim Allday was working at the park when the tree fell. Around 2 PM he reported that it “shattered” on impact. “When I went out there [Sunday afternoon], the trail was literally a river, the trail is washed out,” Allday told SFGate. “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.”
Visitors, both old and new, mourn the demise of this 1,000-year-old tree. In a Facebook post, visitor Claudia Beymer shared two photos—one before and one after the storm. “This is a sad loss for thousands of park visitors and friends,” she said. Other people fondly remember visiting the tree when they were younger, then returning as adults with their own kids. “Breaks my heart that it’s gone,” commenter Linda Schnittger wrote. Perhaps we can find solace through the countless vacation photos and memories made over the past 130 years.