Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Christmas Tree Hunting

Every year for the past 15 years that we have lived in Northern California, we have always cut our own Christmas tree in one of the beautiful national forests we have here in Northern California.

Well, that's not entirely true. In 2005, I had a newborn baby and I refused to go Christmas tree hunting in the forest. So we went to a tree lot. $80 later we had a 5 foot tall tree that we didn't really like. Q griped about the cost and we both missed the adventure of finding our own tree in the woods.

Christmas Tree Cutting in Lassen & Shasta-Trinity National Forests  www.northincali.com


It's definitely an "adventure". One year I was 8 months pregnant so I sent Q into the woods alone to find a tree while I sat in the car. That was the same year we had to cut our tree before Thanksgiving because the baby was coming and I didn't want a repeat of 2005. (see picture below...pregnancy was not good to me...)

Another year it poured down rain and after we had cut the tree and we still needed to tie it to the top of the car, our friend said, "Let's just leave it here and go get a tree at Walmart."

Some years there's snow up to our knees and other years there hasn't been a snow flake in sight. But most of the time it's in that sweet spot somewhere in the middle. A little snow, a little hot chocolate and a lot of looking for the perfect tree. Some years we find one in a matter of minutes (like the pouring rain year) and other times it takes a little more effort. The kids love it at first, and then start to whine when mom and dad keep looking and looking and looking. "Just pick one!" they cry. But it has to be just right, doesn't it? Christmas depends on it! ;)  But then again...maybe it's not about the tree at all. Maybe it's about creating memories and traditions that last. Maybe it's more about the time we spend together and less about the tree.

Christmas Tree Hunting in Lassen & Shasta Trinity National Forests www.northincali.com

Have I sold you on cutting your own Christmas tree yet? No? Well maybe this will: IT ONLY COSTS $10 FOR A TREE PERMIT. That's right. TEN DOLLARS. You can't buy a half a tree at a lot or store for $10.

I was reminded the other day that not everyone knows that you can cut your own tree. Or maybe they do but it just seems hard. How will we know where to go? Won't we get lost? Do we need a chainsaw? What about 4 wheel drive? No need to wonder any longer.

WHERE DO I GET A TREE PERMIT?
That depends on where you will be getting your tree.  Decide on the national forest that you want to get your tree in.  We almost always get ours in Lassen but Trinity and Shasta are the other options close to us.  Permits are on sale from November 1 - December 22.  Mailing in an order for a tree permit is an option but I have never done that before. We always go to one of the offices and purchase one. You can only cut one tree per household, but each person can cut up to 5 trees as long as they have different names and addresses for each permit. We always get Q's parents a tree, so we just buy their permit under their name and address.

Lassen National Forest: Click HERE for list of locations to buy a permit.
Shasta-Trinity National Forests: Click HERE for list of locations to buy a permit.

WHERE SHOULD WE CUT OUR TREE?
First decide on your forest. Each permit comes with a map of locations where you are allowed to cut trees. (We often pick near Old Station because our family's cabin is close by.) Decide on a general area of the park. We try to pick one that has easy access from a major highway. The map marks even dirt roads showing where you can turn off the highway or paved road.  My suggestion would be to pick an area that has a fairly high elevation. Usually the higher the elevation (to a certain degree) will yield the nicer, thicker, prettier trees.

Click HERE for Lassen National Forest Map
Click HERE for Shasta-Trinity National Forest Map

www.northincali.com

What about all those other questions you have? Maybe these pro tips will give you some answers.

Pro Tips:
  • Bring food. No matter which forest you pick, there won't be anywhere close by to buy food. So pack a lunch and hot chocolate and make a day out of it.
  • Prepare for snow. Some years there's a lot and some years there's none, but we always bring our warm & waterproof clothes and gear so that we aren't caught by surprise. Don't forget about your feet! Keep them warm and dry!
  • Bring a saw. We usually bring a hand powered hack-saw. You don't need a power tool, but it sure was nice the year my brother in law brought his chain saw!
  • Don't forget your rope! Always tie your tree down for transport home, even in a truck. One year we put both trees (in-laws and ours) in the bed of our pick-up truck. When we got home, we only had one tree. 
  • Check the weather.  This will be the best way to determine if you need 4 wheel drive and/or chains. (We like to look at the Cal-Trans web cams for an idea of road conditions.) We have used all types of vehicles. Most of the dirt roads are maintained fairly well and you only need 4-wheel drive if there's snow. There are also places where you can pull off the side of the highway and walk to find a tree, no off-roading required. 
  • Follow the rules. In order to know the rules, you have to read them. They will be in your paperwork that you get with your tree permit. PLEASE follow the rules. If we continue to preserve our forests by being respectful of how many trees are cut, where the trees are cut, and the condition we leave the area we ventured in, then we will be able to keep this tradition for many years to come.
Do you cut your own Christmas tree? Where do you go? Any tips I forgot?  Leave them in the comments.

Need ideas for more wintertime activities? Check out these posts:

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