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California’s Famous Drive-Through ‘Tunnel Tree’ Is Brought down by Winter Storm

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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.”

A 1899 stereograph shows the Pioneer Cabin sequoia in Calaveras Grove, California.B.L. Singley—New York Public Library

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.

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