This week I bought a Forest Service Christmas tree permit. Now, I’m not a hunter, but permit in hand, I felt like a yuletide Rambo timber reaper. Carrying a map, armed with a saw, I entered the forest above Ruedi Reservoir, on the Ruedi Trail, stalked my stationary prey, and singling out my pick of the pack, cut and dragged my own piece of Christmas joy out of the forest. It’s an amazing experience, but if you’ve never done it there are a couple take aways.
When you buy a tree at the store it can be a bit too easy. You walk into the section of the specific type of tree you are looking for, pick the one that looks amazing from all angles, and a person is there to carry and tie your tree to your car for you. All you have to do is pay inside and sip hot chocolate. That’s one way to kick back and celebrate the season.
There’s another option. It costs much less, but it involves some hiking and a bit of work. Still, you can do it all while sipping hot chocolate (hot chocolate not included). It calls on you to enter the forest and awaken your inner lumberjack. (If you aren’t into axes, saws, and flannel, you aren’t going to like this option.) You drive miles into the forest, hike around among thousands of options, scrutinizing every tree in the forest, just waiting to find that one tree that might meet generally accepted standards as an ornament holder in your home.
Here’s the thing about the forest. It’s an amazing collection of A LOT of trees. When you start picking out individual trees, looking at each branch from every angle, not all of them are going to make the cover of Christmas Trees Magazine. But, that’s just what makes finding your own Christmas tree in the forest magical. There’s a tree out there that, despite not looking exactly like those supermodel tree farm beauties, brings something into your home that those other trees can’t. Bears. Just kidding. They bring a small piece of that real wonder of what makes our forests so awesome. And once you throw out perfection as your benchmark, you’ll find that those imperfections are just what make each tree so special.
There’s a remarkable feeling you get from dragging a fresh cut tree behind you out of the forest. There’s also a special workout depending on the size of the tree you picked and distance you hiked to get it. It’s a DIY of the highest holiday variety and a memory maker for sure.
Tree permits cost $10 per tree and you can get one in minutes at the local Forest Service district office. They make it real easy. The Forest Service has information explaining the regulations, maps of recommended areas, and offer helpful tips for you to get that special, “perfect” tree.