By Jannelle Dang
A combination of root decay and heavy flooding resulted in the collapse of the Pioneer Cabin Tree in California’s Calaveras Big Trees State Park on Jan. 8.
The storm that hit California and Nevada during the first week of January caused runoff, which turned into the floodwaters and mudslides that uprooted the ancient tree. As mentioned by National Public Radio (NPR), the storm that hit was the region’s largest in decades.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the sequoia was at least over 1,000 years old before it was destroyed. The Pioneer Cabin Tree was about 100 feet tall and 22 feet wide.
Pioneer Cabin Tree was one of several trees in the state with a tunnel dug through its base, and it has served as a main attraction for visitors to the park since the 1880s. It was created in order to compete with the popularity of Yosemite National Park’s own tunnel tree, the Wawona Tree.
A road was built in the tree’s tunnel after the trunk was damaged by lightning strikes and forest fires. It attracted more visitors and allowed them to drive through the tree. NBC News stated that as of recent, only pedestrians could walk through the tree due to its weakening condition.
On the morning of the day the tree fell, hikers were still able to walk through the tunnel and experience the inside of the sequoia’s trunk. However, by afternoon, Jim Allday, a park volunteer, discovered that the tree had fallen across the hiking trail and was surrounded by water.
According to the San Francisco Gate, Allday’s wife, Joan, explained that the tree had pre-existing problems that contributed to its inability to outlast the storm. Not only was it barely alive, but the tree had started leaning to one side years ago.
Because tunnels damage and weaken the trees, parks have stopped creating them. The National Park Service stated to NPR that “today, sequoias which are standing healthy and whole are worth far more [than tunnel