So we started The Wild Christmas Tree Hunt. Last year we cut down a tree in the Plumas National Forest. We had to make two trips because the first day we went we got stuck in a little valley because of icy roads and the priority became getting out instead of finding a tree. We learned a lot last year (take a truck with 4-wheel drive, or double check that the right size chains are in the car/truck you are borrowing, and remember that even 4-wheel drive should avoid certain conditions!) and were all geared up to go again this year.
There are a few national forests within our driving range, so this year we picked a different forest. We went to Tahoe National Forest. You can mail order a Christmas Tree Cutting Permit for the Plumas Nat'l Forest, but not for the Tahoe Nat'l Forest - you have to go to the ranger's station in person to get a Tahoe Permit. So we drove down to South Lake Tahoe and found the ranger's station. It was the biggest and nicest ranger's station I have ever seen! (It is Lake Tahoe though...)
Unfortunately, things were a little iffy about whether we could buy a Christmas Tree Cutting Permit. They were almost out of permits! We debated whether we should drive up to Plumas, but we were running out of daylight because we left the house late. We decided that if they didn't have any more permits we would stop at a tree farm on the way home, but they DID have a permit! So we bought it and looked at the map that shows where you can and can't cut Christmas Trees. (Lesson: Call the ranger station to find out if they are sold out of permits BEFORE you start driving, especially for popular areas like Tahoe!)
When we went to the Plumas Nat'l Forest there were miles and miles of forest and not very many people. We were about five miles from a tiny town that closed down by six pm when we got stuck last year. And there was no residential areas, it was all sparsely distributed cabins. This year, we drove for maybe 20 minutes and pulled off onto a little side road marked on the map. There were cars parked near the side road, and we saw several other cars and people. We went down one switchback, went over some ice, saw more ice, and turned back. "We learned our lesson last year," said Lost Boy. So we parked by the highway and walked down the side road a little ways.
|Going down the hill to look for trees.|
|Me sitting on a rock at the top of the hill.|
Last year, Lost Boy handed me the saw and I got to help cut down the tree. Not that I made much difference, I don't think I made it through a centimeter of the trunk! This year I sat on a rock while Lost Boy started to cut down our tree. Eventually he had me lean on it so that the cut would stay open and allow him to make better progress. At first I was a little worried that I, with my weight and balance off-center, would go down with the tree when it fell. But I didn't, and it was kind of neat to feel the tree leaning more and more, and then to feel it leave my hand and tumble the rest of the way down. There was no shout of "Timber!" or huge crash, just a gentle tumble.
|Cutting at ground level to prevent trip hazards.|
|Loading the tree into the truck.|
The tree started out about twelve feet tall, but Lost Boy took several inches off the bottom before he put it in the truck. He took off several more inches when he brought it into the house. Now the tree is just tall enough to brush the ceiling. The lovely thing about cutting down your own tree is that a five foot tree costs just the same as an eight or twelve foot tree. The permit is $10 and you can cut down any tree that has a trunk circumference of less than six inches. So instead of paying $30 or $40 at a lot or farm, we payed $10 and had money for some hot chocolate and chicken soup on our way back through town. Lost Boy pointed out that the gas money for the round trip was about $40, so there is no savings there. But I think that the memories, the stories, and the time to be together and actually have a conversation is worth it.