Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree

This year, because we were sticking around for the holidays and Blake was supposedly old enough to not nock it over, we decided to get a real Christmas tree. We thought it would be fun to make an event of it, so I started looking around for different options. There were tree farms, tree lots, the over abundant parking lot lots, and even the store lots. Well, OK. Nothing too exciting there. Then I stumbled upon the National Forest Christmas tree cutting program.

Every year, the National Forests give out permits for people to come and cut down their own Christmas trees during the first full week of December.
To do so, you have to have either 4 wheel drive or snow chains, and you can only cut down trees in designated areas with trunks less then 6 inches in diameter. Oh, and chainsaws aren't allowed. But it's quite inexpensive (only $10 per tree), and you can feel good about helping to thin the forests to a healthier level.

I was thrilled. I knew we probably wouldn't get that wonderful of a tree. After all, it would be natural, not pruned to grow a certain way like all of the farmed ones (though I did hope for something better then the Charlie Brown variety). Still, to go into the mountains, cut our own tree, haul it home, and set it up as a reminder of our trip was something that seemed totally worth it. Besides, you couldn't beet the freshness.

So, the first Saturday of December, we all got dressed in thermals, snow pants, snow boots, hats, gloves, and coats, loaded a couple sleds, water bottles, lunch, saw, ax, rope, a book on CD, and ourselves into our SUV, and headed off for the mountains. The site we were going to was north of Fort Collins near the Boy Scout Camp, a good hour and a half drive.
Our kids are good travelers, so there wan't much hassle on the drive. They even let us listen to NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me program for the first half. Then we listened to Listen In Addition until we got there, eating lunch the last ten minutes or so of the drive.

At the "entrance" we were given a map of the cutting site, an activity book for the kids, and a chance to use the johns. Then we headed along the one way, snow packed road to find a likely spot for tree hunting.

There were a lot of people there, taking advantage of the warmer weather break between two ice storms. Site A was really crowded, and so was site B. We kept going to site C, where cars more spread out, found a small shoulder, and parked.

The kids were really excited. Once out of the car, they ran all over the place through the two foot deep snow. Bailey liked to be pulled on the sled I was dragging, but it was hard to maneuver due to all of the fallen logs and brush scattered all over. Eventually I just made her stay off. Blake and SIerra were running all over the place, getting stuck on occasion and having the time of their lives. It quickly became apparent that One of us would have to look for the tree while the other watched the kids. Guess who got which job.

Seth came back ten to fifteen minutes later with a few possible trees in mind, so we gathered up the kids and took a look. Most of the options were very bare on one side or more, or the wrong height. One had two trees growing from one trunk, which I really liked, but the base was too large to fit into our tree stand at home. There was one, however, that, though not perfect, we rather liked. It was about nine feet tall, relatively uniform in shape, and a softer pine variety. The kids were also starting to get tired and whiney, so we decided to claim it.

Seth took the ax to the base, which was only about two inches in diameter, and quickly cut it down while the kids sat close by to watch. Minutes later we were back at the car stripping off boots, coats, hats, and gloves, tying the tree to the the top of the car, and getting everyone situated. Then we followed the road to the exit where we once agin took a pit stop and payed for our tree.

Because it was our drowsy time of day, we put in a book on CD, The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker. Blake fell asleep quickly, but the book kept the rest of us suitably awake for the return drive.
We stopped at the McDonald's drive through in Fort Collins for an early dinner (Blake barely even twitching) and made it home close to 4pm.

We set up our tree soon after. After the lights and string of beads, we hung pine cones on it and simple plastic ornaments (though not too many). It's a bit sparse and has a bit of a figure 8 shape to it, but I like it a lot. I think it's grown on me. Now, if only I can remember to water it every day. . .

Happy 3rd Birthday Blake!