We’ve hunted the wild Christmas tree nearly every year since 1983. We head into the National Forest, hunting tag in hand, and look for that perfect evergreen to bring into our house and remind us that there is still life under all that cold and snow.
As with all hunting, there are rules. You don’t just go out and take down that beautiful lone spruce in the middle of a meadow. You want to find a nice congested batch of young trees that need some thinning. Take down one of those, and the surrounding trees will have a better chance.
Which means that our Christmas trees usually are pretty Charlie Brown-ish, and we’ve often resorted to cutting extra boughs and drilling holes in the trunk to fill in the bare spots. Even so, we passed on this one – too many naked spots!
The thing is, with all that snow on them, you can’t really tell what’s underneath.
And when it’s really cold, the hunt is just plain torture. My first Christmas in Montana we headed out from our apartment – walking – on Christmas Eve. It was about a mile to the National Forest, and by the time we found our scraggly tree and turned back, I was just about hysterical from the cold. Head down, I trudged behind Bill, cursing Montana the whole way. We got into town, and the bank thermometer was slowly blinking: -36. I’m amazed I stayed.
This year, though, was perfect. We’ve found a spot in the Elkhorn Mountains that burned in 1988, and the trees are filling in there way too thickly, so there are plenty of nice choices. The snow was deep, the temperature in the 20s, and we had a grand day.
We snowshoed up the hillside, looking for a nice thick stand of trees.
We have tall ceilings, so we can fit a tall tree. This year, we found a gorgeous one in the middle of a dense group of firs.
We thanked the tree for letting us cut him, and were on our way.
Merry Christmas and Happy Solstice, everyone!