Almost every year for the last 12 years, we have gone up to a little stand of Noble Fir trees to pick out our Christmas tree. We buy a $5 permit, which allows us to drive and park on NFS and BLM lands without the ridiculous Forest Service Pass that Washington put into effect this year. The $30 pass is not transferable from car to car, so if you want to drive, say your passenger car in the summer, and your pickup in the winter, you need to pay $60 for two passes. It has been wildly unpopular with residents and the state is complaining that sales of the pass didn't bring in projected revenue. Duh! Not only are fewer people coughing up money for this pass, people can't afford to pay twice.
Only 2 other years have we not been able to make it up to our coveted tree stand of Nobles due to snow. It was 23 degrees out and fresh snow had fallen overnight. It was 14-18" deep, the roads are not maintained, and there is ice in places. When the snowmobilers compact the snow, it is hard to drive in, and the fresh snow compounds the driving difficulties making it hard to make headway. We have a Dodge Ram 3500 crew cab, and even with chains, we couldn't make it through the snow to our hunting grounds. We only came across a handful of snowmobilers, which was very unusual. It seems that even the die hards will scrimp and save to have snowmobliling money for fun and play. We also usually come across other Christmas tree hunters, but not this year. So we were alone up in the woods. It was sunny and breezy. The thin clouds overhead were moving at a brisk pace. A gorgeous day. We always pack a thermos of hot chocolate, and sometimes sandwiches, if we plan to stay and play.
Today, we brought hot cocoa in anticipation of a quick jaunt, up and back, and a few minutes planned for some target practice. DD18 had to work, so it was me, DH and DD17 along with Cooper, our golden retriever. Well, we made it past the rock pit. One year, the road past the rock pit was closed, so we had to hunt near there for a tree. But usually, if we can make it past that landmark, we only have a few hairpin corners and it's not too much further to our secret hunting spot. Only, again this year, we got to the point where our pickup was not able to keep up with the snow. So we backed down and turned around, all the while keeping our eyes peeled for the perfect Christmas tree. Not a Noble to be found. Now, we love Nobles because they have a lot of room between the layers of branches for hanging ornaments. They last a long time, are fragrant, and are very pretty, and, well, noble.
We hunted and hiked and huffed and puffed as we trudged around in the deep snow. I have a pair of old Snocraft snow shoes made in Norway, Maine, that belonged to my mother when I lived in Alaska. They would have been perfect for getting around in the snow. At least I'd like to think so, because I have actually never used them before. Maybe next time.
A white jackrabbit took off when we got too close, but Cooper was too interested in romping in the snow that he didn't even notice. DD17 is not as into this tree hunt now that it has become more work trudging in deep snow, and there are basically no trees to choose from. She's hunting from the road, now. Almost all the fir trees have dead needles on the tips. Not sure what is up with that, beetle kill, maybe? We go up and around the rock pit. Cooper spots a squirrel up in a tree which he is enamored with. We head back towards the pickup, and down further on. We settled for a Douglas fir. Not our first choice, and maybe it is even hinting at being a Charlie Brown tree, although we can cover up any flaws with plenty of ornaments. DH cuts it down and lugs it to the pickup. That means it's hot cocoa time!
We set up our target which is stapled to a thick board and lean it up against a tree. I practice with my PK380 and DH with his 357. DD17 gets in on some practice, too. None of us are doing very well. I know I need to get dialed in, I keep shooting too low. I am much better with a rifle. I also am thinking of adding a laser to my pistol. But I need to be good without it, if I am to be any good at all. Worst case, shotguns are on sale at Bi-Mart this week.
I am thankful that we found a tree. We will put it up tomorrow. It is always fun to go up and play in the snow. We look forward to our Christmas tree hunts every year. We never know what conditions we will run into, or what our tree will be. But we always have a great time and it's those family traditions that make lasting memories. What do you do for your family Christmas tree?