Sad news came out of California last Sunday. One of America’s great national treasures, the Pioneer Cabin Tree or the Tunnel Tree has fallen. The giant sequoia, which resided in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, was one of our nation’s most famous trees. It was a true giant, measuring 33 feet in diameter, so big in fact that in the 1880s a hole was cut through the middle of the trunk. It was a hole not only big enough for people to walk through but big enough for a car to drive through! The tree’s height was unknown and its age was unknown though it was believed to be over 1,000 years old. The giant sequoia, which are closely related to the redwood tree, are only found in Northern California.
In the 1880s the tree had a large scar on it as a result of a forest fire and the landowner at the time was looking for a gimmick to bring tourists to the area. A hollowed out tree already existed in Yosemite so he decided do the same thing. Tourists were encouraged to walk through the tree and at time they were also encouraged to etch their name into the tree though thankfully that practice was ended. As one can imagine cutting a hole into the tree certainly did not help it and a park volunteer said that before the storm the tree was barely alive.
Over the past weekend one of the strongest storms to hit California in decades felled the giant. The tree had been leaning for several years and the wind and flooding that the storms, known as the Pineapple Express, brought to the area along with its shallow root system brought it down. One gust of wind recorded at the Squaw Valley Ski Resort clocked in at 173 mph! The unusual amount of rain and snow led to the record flooding in Northern California and Nevada and brought several rivers to flood stage. It should of course be no surprise that the tree was weakened because of the hole in its trunk. It shattered on impact with the forest floor.