Monday, January 12, 2009

Excursion Article Series 12.04.08: Christmas Tree Hunting is always a growing experience

Caption: Mom looks in the wrong direction for Christmas trees.

Excursion: Christmas treeing
Where: National Forest land – maps available when you pick up your permit
When: Probably before Christmas would be best
Why: To keep plastic pine needles in clearance boxes at Walmart where they belong

Religion is important to me. It plays a vital part in my life. But every year right around Thanksgiving I find myself especially happy to be a Christian. I personally think we celebrate Christmas in December because we all need a little sunshine in the otherwise often bleak winter weather.

What other holiday could get entire families out slogging around through mud and snow to play lumberjack for a day? And what’s more, everyone seems to enjoy the experience in the end.

Tradition has it in our family that we hunt down our defenseless trees sometime around Thanksgiving, as in “Thanks for this asymmetrical tree.” They’re all mismatched from one side to the other, so if you find yourself having problems saying “timber,” get over it. Just realize that you can easily face one side of a tree toward a wall, or if you have an especially barren tree, a corner. If it’s a bit of a Charlie Brown tree when you get it home, the cats could probably use a new scratching post.

The next thing to consider is height. No matter how well you gauge it when you’re outside, it comes into the house a different height. This is one of the few defense mechanisms the smaller, more perfect trees actually have. They stand there nonchalantly next to their gargantuan brothers pointing their more spindly limbs at taller trees. They know that as Americans we live by the mantra “Bigger is better.” Therefore we forget our ceilings aren’t as tall as say, the outdoors, for instance. If that ploy doesn’t work, they quick-change from friendly fir into spiky spruce to try to get you from hack-sawing through their little spine-ities. Can you blame them?

We all know how well these defenses actually work. So far I’ve found a tree every year that I’m willing to place in my living room. Sometimes this just means it’s getting dark, my wife’s toes are cold and “Hey, there’s a tree that will fit, maybe…” Even with an experienced eye, I find myself hacking off the fullest lower branches and/or the bits where the star ought to perch just so I don’t have to lay the tree sideways to keep it in the living room.

This year was different though. Amazingly enough, I remembered that trees are bigger than they look outside. So I went by the rule that unless I could reach my hand up and touch the top, it was too big. At 6 foot 5 inches tall, I can touch the ceiling in my apartment while standing flat footed. Even then I was looking at the scrawny tree we picked going, “Really? I’m sure we could go bigger.”

My family found our trees on Fall Creek Road near the summit of the sledding hill (article forthcoming when snow arrives.) I couldn’t find my hiking boots on the way out of my apartment, so I had to sub in my tractionless old basketball shoes last second. Right after I started up the hill carrying my 14-month-old son, I slipped on some thick sludge. Luckily, I caught every one of our combined 235 pounds on my funny bone. My son looked startled for a second, but was taking it fine until he could see I was hurting. Not to be left out of the pain party, he started screaming until grandma came to his rescue. For my part, I writhed in pain while the color drained from my face and the nausea flowed up. I reclined on a prickly blanket of pine needles until the pain subsided several minutes later. My brother made fun of me on his way by.


Anyway, we all got trees; some of us even before dark, thus keeping up with our treeing tradition. Permits can be obtained for anywhere from $5 for a tree under 12 feet to $25 for a tree taller than 25 feet from the Jackson Ranger District at 25 Rosencrans Lane or the visitor center at 532 North Cache Street. The permit must be wrapped around the tree trunk when you take it down. Only one permit is allowed per person, but individuals may purchase up to four additional permits for friends and family members, provided they have the name of each additional person at the time of purchase.

Surprisingly, I think our scrawny tree may be our nicest ever … except for that lousy back side.

Caption: Eric points out that if you take the middle out of this 14-foot tree, you'd find a perfect monster of a Christmas tree.

No comments:

Post a Comment