Growing up, we always had a fake tree (I think Andrew usually had a real tree, though). I think it was something like my mom was worried we would be allergic to a real tree, or the cats, or it’s just easier. Anyways, my first winter in Colorado, a group of friends invited us to go tree hunting with them. Someone had to explain to us what tree hunting was – you get a permit, go into the permitted area (usually National Forest), hike through the snow, find a tree, chop it down, and take it home! The first few years when Andrew and I didn’t live together, we would go tree hunting but never get one for ourselves. We’ve gone every year we’ve lived out here except for one (last year), and resumed our tradition again this year! Here are our ground rules for tree hunting.
First, make sure you have a permit. In Colorado, most of the areas allow you to purchase 5 permits and they are $10 each (which is a deal!). There’s still time! The following areas have cutting through the next couple of weekends (or even Christmas Eve – wouldn’t that be a fun morning activity?): Winter Park/Fraser, South Park Ranger District, White River National Forest in Dillon and Minturn. If you don’t live in Colorado, you can find information for your area by navigating from the Forest Service main page to your local ranger district. We’ve gone in Minturn, Tennessee Pass, Off of Vail Pass, FairPlay, and this year Buffalo Creek. There isn’t much snow in Colorado yet, and Buffalo Creek is known for drying out quickly because it’s relatively low in altitude (it’s a great winter trail running/MTB spot), so I stupidly wasn’t thinking about this when I snatched up some permits from our nearest ranger office. So we had a nice 50 degree cutting expedition.
Once you get to the trailhead/cutting area, make sure you know where you parked your car because you are going to go off trail.
Wander around until you find the perfect Charlie Brown tree, which will probably be no more than a quarter mile from your car.
Then keep walking – you have to make sure you found the perfect tree. You will walk another mile and then realize that you have to carry your tree all the way back to the car, so you give up and go back in search of the original tree.
Make sure you are clear on the scale. Use your 6 foot tall friend to measure – oops, your tree is at least 10 feet tall.
When you’ve found the perfect tree, take the required group/family photos. Then, start chopping. Everyone gets a turn. We like to use a hatchet (mainly because one of our friends has a hatchet, and when else do you get to use it?), but a hand saw works just fine and is probably more common. But.. boring.
Bring gloves for your walk back to the car. When you get home, you’ll need a tree stand. The trees we’ve cut “in the wild” have always had too skinny of trunks to fit into the tree stand, so we put a few pieces of scrap wood in there. If you’re like us and you don’t have many ornaments, the Charlie Brown trees are perfect.