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Pioneer Cabin Tree, Famous for Tunnel, Is Toppled by Storm

by Don Melvin and Kurt Chirbas /  / Updated 
The Pioneer Cabin Tree.Simona Ladannull

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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.Simona Ladannull

"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.

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