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This iconic centuries-old tree fell — and many are heartbroken

You know that old adage, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound"? Well yesterday an iconic tree in California's Calaveras Big Trees State Park fell and left a resounding sadness for those who had the chance to visit.

Simona Ladan
The Pioneer Cabin Tree when it stood in Calaveras Big Trees State Park

The Pioneer Cabin Tree was hollowed out at the base of the trunk in the late 1800s to create a tunnel that thousands of visitors have since walked through. The architects were inspired by the Wawona Tree, a similar sequoia tree that stood at Yosemite National Park until 1969.

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The remarkable tree still showed signs of life, but powerful storms in the area caused flooding that it could not withstand. Jim Allday, a volunteer at the park, told SF Gate that the tree fell down around 2 p.m. Sunday, and that it "shattered" on impact. "I could see the tree on the ground, it looked like it was laying in a pond or lake with a river running through it," he said.

While the age of the Pioneer Cabin Tree isn't clear, giant sequoias clan live more than 3,000 years, according to the National Park Service. Yosemite's Grizzly Giant is estimated to be 1,800 years old (give or take a few centuries).

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The Calaveras Big Trees Association, a nonprofit group, said it best in their Facebook tribute, "The iconic and still living tree...enchanted many visitors."

Indeed, many shared personal memories — and photos — of the tree. "I have a picture of my grandfather holding me in front of this tree back in early 50s," wrote one commenter on Facebook.

"This really made me sad," wrote another. "Yes, I cried. This tree is one of my precious memories when I was a kid. I have pictures of us in our van driving through this magnificent tree."

One woman shared her engagement photo featuring the tree. "My fiancé Scott just called me to let me know The Great Pioneer Cabin Tree is no more I am heart broken I love that tree!"

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Al Roker, daughter Leila explore Sequoia National Park

Play Video - 6:45

Al Roker, daughter Leila explore Sequoia National Park

Play Video - 6:45

While this great wonder no longer stands, the National Park Service is host to many other sequoia gems, including the General Sherman Tree, which stands at 275 feet tall and has a diameter of 36 feet at the base.

While we've lost a great treasure in the Pioneer Cabin Tree, the inspiring and enchanting sites that remain are worth the trip!

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