Broken, shattered, resting in pieces -- the Pioneer Cabin Tree in Calaveras Big Trees State Park has been a huge draw for tourists for the last 200-plus years.
"Generations of families have come here, people have gotten married here. I mean people around the world, I mean this is a worldwide tree. People know this tree,” said Tony Tealdi, a supervising ranger with the California State Parks.
State rangers said the wind, rain and recent snowfall may have been too much of the historic tree to handle. It came crashing down about 2 p.m. Sunday.
"It’s kind of sad because my brother is in first grade, and he can’t see that this year because it fell down,” Isabella Pollard of Stockton said.
"Feel sad you know,” Hassan Tallad of Lodi said.
"Sad to hear it. We have lots of fun, fond memories of going through," Erika Pollard of Stockton said.
Families were saddened to hear about the tree but were happy to share with us their memories of when they did get to visit.
"I like that we got to like go through a big tree ‘'cause I don’t really know what the inside of a big tree looks like,” Isabella said.
Rangers said the Pioneer Cabin Tree was hollowed out in the 1880s as a way to draw in more visitors.
"They decide to cut a hole in the tree, and they made it look like a cabin, a square, that’s where it gets the name Pioneer Cabin Tree,” Tealdi said.
It became one of the highlights of the park. Rangers said they estimate the tree is 2,000 years old but cannot know for sure.
"In order to do that we’re going to have to cut the tree up, count up the rings, we’re not going to do that,” Tealdi said.
Although it no longer stands tall, rangers said the Pioneer Cabin Tree will remain a part of the trail. The fact that it fell is now a part of its story.
"This tree is staying here. It’s going to stay in the forest,” Tealdi explained.
The trail has been closed, but rangers anticipate when they reopen that visitors will get to pay their respects to the Pioneer Cabin Tree.