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Tree Tunnel Envy
A Brief History of Tunnel Trees in Northern California


Northern California has a curious history of tunneling through giant trees ( This is the giant sequoia that apparently started the fetish.
Photo: Dcrjsr--Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

California's tree tunneling proclivities seem to have started when a giant sequoia in Tuolumne Grove (Yosemite) was struck by lighting and burned. Although still living, the tree was topped off, debarked and tunneled through in 1875. The dead tunnel tree still stands and loads of tourists still walk through it.

In 1881 an undamaged giant sequoia in Yosemite (Tuolumne Grove), the "Wawona," was tunneled through, a space large enough that decades later cars would begin to drive through, perhaps presaging California's drive thru culture. The 2,100-year-old, 234' tall, 26' dia. marvel toppled over in 1969, in part because of man's mutilation, and the effects of centuries of weather. The "funeral" tree still remains on the ground and its sheer mass still impresses.

Shortly after the 1881 Wawona tunneling, and apparently jealous of that attraction, a 150' sequoia in what is now Calaveras Big Trees State Park in Arnold, Calif., was tunneled through. It became known as the "Pioneer Cabin," because it brought to mind a chimney. A severe storm with heavy gusting winds ravaged northern California in the early new year. A few lives were lost, and there was plenty of property damage. On Jan. 9, the "Pioneer Cabin" tree toppled over.

Northern California's "most famous" drive through tree today is the "Chandelier," a 276'-tall coastal redwood in Leggett, Calif., 181 miles north Of San Francisco. The tunnel, carved out in 1937, is 6' wide by 6' 9".

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December 11, 2018, 2:03 am PST

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