Heavy Rains Topple Iconic Pioneer Cabin Tree at Calaveras Big Trees State Park
You know I often just repost a lot of the public service announcements from the Forest Service or our National parks. But today I find myself a little mournful of a treasure I will never get to visit. I live only about 2.5 hours from Calaveras State Park. I have written about the trails and the park based on others that have gone before me. I have driven by the park a couple times, on my way to Yosemite National Park (or Back) and yet I never took the time to stop and view this magical national treasure for myself. Oh , I thought of it often, even had a trip penciled in last spring to see the flowers bloom around the big trees but let life get in the way that weekend. Now when I get to go for the first time, I will have missed one of our most iconic National treasures in the Park Systems.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Pioneer Cabin Tree, one of California’s oldest tourist attractions and a beloved specimen of a rare California native species, fell Sunday in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. A combination of trunk and root decay and storm water runoff appears to have brought the giant sequoia down at its base, shattering it and a nearby cedar tree. No one was hurt. The trees fell when the trail to the giant sequoia was closed due to a heavy downpour and rising creek. Flowing water and fallen tree branches are current public safety concerns being addressed by state park staff. Almost a foot of rain has fallen at Calaveras Big Trees State Park near Arnold in the last two weeks, with more than three inches falling Sunday.
The Pioneer Cabin Tree is one of the best known giant sequoias, which grow naturally only in a few locations on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. The giant sequoia is the largest tree species in the world, with some trees reaching a diameter of 27 feet. The Pioneer Cabin Tree stood approximately 100 feet tall and was 22 feet in diameter at breast height – this is as it stood in recent times. The tree is located in the North Grove of the state park within a relatively large sequoia grove containing more than 150 specimens roughly 2,000 years old.
I sit today recalling the multiple national monument and park features we have lost in the last several years. Most, I may have never seen but in a photo, but the Calevas State Park, is so accessible to me here in the Sierra. This Iconic Photo Tree, was missed by me only becasue I didnt go see it for myself. I didnt prioitize it over other mondane daily life events, and this brings into question Why? I started Sierra REc Magazine two years ago, because I wanted to help people find and discover more of the Sierra Recreation locations and events that bring me so much life. But yet, missed one myself, because it was just a little too hard to get to today. (Traveling Hwy 4 does sway me occassionally)
Lightning strikes in the 1800s hollowed out the Pioneer Cabin Tree’s base and later knocked off its crown and opened up its side. In 1881, the Pioneer Cabin Tree base was squared off and enlarged. Similar to Big Stump, the base of the 1850 Discovery Tree at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, the Pioneer Cabin Tree helped visitors experience the enormous size of the ancient sequoias. For sixty years, tourists rode horses and carriages through the Pioneer Cabin Tree, and in the 1920s automobiles passed through it. Thousands of visitors posed for photos at the tree.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park became a state park in 1931 to preserve the North Grove of giant sequoias.
I know now that I will visit Calaveras State park this year. I will visit this location and wish I had come before. I will make plans to visit the other Groves int he park as well as map out the other Tunnel trees in California, before I miss any others.
The Pioneer Cabin Tree was one of the last of the historic tunnel redwoods in the Sierra. The Palace Hotel Tree and Smith Cabin Tree remain standing in the more remote South Grove Nature Preserve at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. The California Tree in Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove and three coast redwood tunnel trees in northwestern California are other storied sequoias in public parks.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park and its new visitor center remain open during daylight hours with an entrance station on State Route 4, north of Arnold. The North Grove Trail is temporarily closed. A temporary trail bypass around the fallen Pioneer Cabin Tree may be established as soon as flood waters recede and the trail can be reopened safely. California State Parks will be evaluating what to do with the fallen tree.
We here at Sierra Rec Magazine, hope that you and your family will head out and explore more in 2017. Find our National Tresures in our Parks, or in your local national forest and wilderness areas. I know we have once again remembered that time destroys all things. WE salute the Tree that was … at Calaveras State Park. Many a family photo was taken here and memories made. Its Legend will last forever.