Yesterday, I heard the news that one of the iconic giant sequoia trees, located in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, is gone. The tree had been hollowed out to allow cars to drive through it. The Pioneer Cabin Tree, usually referred to as simply the “tunnel tree,” is estimated to be over 1,000 years old. It was knocked over by a powerful winter storm that slammed into California on Sunday. While the tunnel had been carved out of the tree, it was still very much a living tree.
I immediately though back to a vacation my husband, Bob and I took a few years back, that took us through the scenic Redwood National Park in northern California. While the tree that we were able to drive through was not the one that was toppled in this storm, I still felt the loss of that amazing tree. The giant sequoia is the world’s largest tree, after all, and it is only found in the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It can reach a height of 325 feet. This particular tree, called the Pioneer Cabin Tree was actually hollowed out in about 1880. For a long time, cars drove through the iconic tree, but in recent years, it was only accessible by hiking trail. I thought about the tree we drove through, and how much fun it was to see such a huge tree. I was quite saddened by the loss of this beautiful tree.
Apparently, a volunteer, Jim Allday was in the park on Sunday when the tree came crashing down. It was about 2 pm, and the tree splintered on impact. The thing that he found most concerning was that visitors had been walking through the tree just hours earlier. He went out to the site to find the tree on the ground, and what looked like a pond or river running through it. The river was most likely the cause of the tree’s demise. The powerful winter storm brought heavy rain and snow to the area. It was the worst flooding in over a decade. The storm forced the closing of Yosemite National Park. It brought with it, hurricane-force winds of over 100 miles per hour. The wind and soggy ground were just too much for the giant tree. For people in the area, and anyone who has ever had the opportunity to see the tree and the park, it feels like losing a famous historical figure, and at 1,000, it was a great historical figure indeed.