Iconic California ‘Drive-Thru’ Tree Now A Pile Of Rubble

Open Jaw

For a kid like this Open Jaw correspondent 40+ years ago, it was like entering the land of the giants – a tree so big that you could drive through it. (It was also my 1st visit to a drive-thru - long before Tim Horton’s.)

That ancient, 100 ft. tall Sequoia in Northern California was toppled by a massive storm Sunday. The historic Pioneer Cabin Tree, named for the tunnel that was carved out of its base in the 1880s, came crashing down in Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

The tunnel that made the tree famous and ultimately weakened it was carved into its trunk to allow amazed tourists to pass through, 1st with horses and buggies and later with cars. In recent decades the tunnel was limited to pedestrians.

The largest tree species in the world, sequoias can reach diameters up to 27 ft. but have shallow root systems that make them vulnerable to toppling.

The drive-thru tree had a diameter of 22 ft. and was about 2,000 years old, said Tony Tealdi, a supervising ranger at California State Parks.

When the already mostly dead tree hit the ground on Sunday, it shattered and is now completely unrecognizable, said Jim Allday, a volunteer at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. “It was majestic,” he said. “Now it’s basically a pile of rubble.”

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