An ancient tree, which had a living tunnel carved into it 137 years ago, was felled by an intense winter storm in California‘s Calaveras Big Trees State Park on Sunday, according to SFGate.com.
Park volunteer Jim Allday reported that the iconic “Pioneer Cabin” sequoia — which is thought to be more than a thousand years old and is one of the handful of tunneled-through sequoias in the state — did not survive the powerful storm. Allday told SFGate.com that the tree “shattered” when it hit the ground.
The Calaveras Big Tree Association wrote on Facebook: “This iconic and still living tree — the tunnel tree — enchanted many visitors. The storm was just too much for it.”
Tunnel trees were made in the 19th century to inspire tourism, NPR reports, by making it easy for horses and automobiles to drive through them. The park eventually closed off the Pioneer Cabin to cars, but hikers were still allowed to walk through it. All the remaining sequoia trees with tunnels are now either logs lying their side or are dead, according to the Forest Service.
|CALAVERAS BIG TREES STATE PARK. Getty Images|
Pioneer Cabin Tree, Famous for Tunnel, Is Toppled by Storm
A famed giant sequoia hollowed out so cars could drive through its trunk has met its end — toppled by the rains that lashed California over the weekend.
"The Pioneer Cabin tree has fallen!" the Calaveras Big Trees Association said on Facebook. "This iconic and still living tree — the tunnel tree — enchanted many visitors. The storm was just too much for it."
The tree's exact age and height were not immediately available, but sequoias can measure their ages in millennia and grow taller than 100 yards, or more than the length of a football field. They are the tallest trees in the world, according to Mario D. Vaden, a tree expert who has worked with the Save the Redwoods League in California.
Photos show the sequoia splintered on impact. If the question is whether a tree falling in the forest makes a noise, this one probably did.
The Pioneer Cabin Tree was in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, 100 miles southeast of Sacramento. Its trunk was hollowed out in the 1880s to compete with similar trees in Yosemite National Park, perhaps 50 miles further to the southeast, as the crow flies.
At first, only hikers passed through the Pioneer Cabin Tree. Then cars, once they were invented, were allowed. But more recently, passage was again limited to pedestrians only.
People shared decades of memories of the tree on the Calaveras Big Trees Association's Facebook page.
"Heartbreaking," wrote Romy Virginia Gabriel.
And another poster, Gerogie Hensely, wrote, "I have pictures of my folks and their car driving through this tree when I was a kid and I'm now 78 years old."
The trees are said to live as as long as 3,000 years. The normal cause of death is toppling by storm.
Pioneer Cabin Tree in California felled by storms
Storms in California have toppled one of America's most famous trees - the Pioneer Cabin Tree.
The giant sequoia was known for having a hole cut through its trunk - big enough for a car to drive through.
The tree, estimated to be more than one thousand years old, was felled by the strongest storm to have hit the area in more than a decade.
California and Nevada have been hit by unusually high rainfall levels, leading to flooding and falling trees.
The Calaveras Big Trees Association first reported that the drive-through Pioneer Cabin Tree - carved 137 years ago - was no more.
The storm was "just too much for it", the group wrote in a Facebook post that has drawn nearly 2,000 comments.
"Many memories were created under this tree," one read. "They will remain good memories."
Others pointed out that the tree might have survived for longer if a tunnel had not been carved into it.
"You can't cut a hole in a tree like this and expect it to live," said one comment.
"This hole always bothered me so much. Why not just drive around it?"
Park volunteer Jim Allday said the sequoia, also known as the Tunnel Tree, shattered as it hit the ground.
"We lost an old friend today," he wrote in a social media post.
Giant sequoia are closely related to the redwood tree, which is considered the tallest tree species on earth, reaching 250ft (76 metres).
They only grow in the groves of California's Sierra Nevada mountain range.
The tree fell as parts of California and Nevada were drenched by a seasonal weather system known as the Pineapple Express.
Not to be confused with the Seth Rogen movie of the same name, the Pineapple Express is an "atmospheric river" that extends across the Pacific from Hawaii to the US West Coast, meteorologists say.
"This is a serious flood situation," the National Weather Service said in a special flood statement late Sunday night after the Russian River in California and the Truckee River in Nevada burst their banks.
Hundreds of people have been forced to flee their homes in Northern California and Nevada as water levels rise, and avalanches and mudslides close roads.