The Pioneer Cabin Tree, which may have been more than 1,000 years old, stood in California’s Calaveras County and was a popular attraction at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, where it was known by many as simply the “tunnel tree.”
The giant sequoia, the world’s largest tree, is found only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and can reach a height of 325 feet. Visitors were able to drive through the tunnel of the Pioneer Cabin Tree after it was hollowed out in the 1880s, but in recent years it was only accessible by hiking trail.
Jim Allday, a volunteer, was working at the park Sunday when the tree came crashing down around 2 p.m. and “shattered” on impact. He said visitors had been walking through the tree just hours earlier.
“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.”
The storm also prompted the closure of nearby Yosemite National Park, and hurricane-force winds over 100 mph were reported at the crest of the mountains.
“People are in absolute shock,” Allday said. “The shame of it is that the history of the park is tied into this tree quite a bit. The inside of the Cabin Tree was covered with etchings from the 1800s. Those are lost now.”
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