Sunday, December 26, 2010

Oh Timber Tannenbaum

This year my wife decided she’d prefer having our floors covered with real pine needles rather than the fake ones from our once beautiful, fantastic, life-like artificial tree. I was against the idea purely on financial grounds, thinking the simulated tree still looked fabulous after 15 years of faithful service. However, to my wife it now looked like a threadbare stick. Since my opinion rarely matters when it comes to home decorating, the life-like "paid-for" tree was disposed of.

To replace our Christmas classic, we decided to make like the pioneers and harvest our own tree directly from the mountains. After obtaining an un-pioneer like permit for $10 from the Forest Service, we picked our only free Saturday and headed south to the Mountains of Levan. The Mountains of Levan are really just red-dirt hills east of an almost ghost town named "Levan". Since “the Mountains of Levan” sounds more romantic than “the hill on the west side of Chicken Creek Road,” I will refer to the location as “the Mountains of Levan.”

Before we embarked on the trek to the Mountains of Levan, my wife laid down the rules for the excursion. Rule number one, there was to be no bickering, arguing or contention. With the fun extinguished, we climbed into the truck and headed south to the Mountains of Levan. After burning about $50 in gas we left the highway and drove east on Chicken Creek Road until the truck could not make any more progress on the icy road. At this point we did what survival books advise against—we abandoned our vehicle and set out on foot.

About one mile up the road my wife spotted the “perfect tree.” It was about 1000 feet up the snow covered 87 degree slope on the other side of Chicken Creek. Since there was to be no contention we all cheerfully agreed to examine the tree. After what seemed like hours of joyous contention-free bushwacking our way up the icy brush covered hill, we finally reached the aforementioned “perfect tree.” (Bushwacking is a term for making your own trail. In this case the term comes from the habit of the lead hiker holding back the tree branches impeding his progress until the second person gets close and then suddenly releasing the branches, thus “bushwacking” the follower across the face.)

When we finally reached the “perfect tree” we discovered it was 37 and ½ feet tall. My wife commented that the tree looked much smaller from the road, which now appeared as a faint ribbon, much like the Great Wall of China when viewed from outer space.

Since our permit only allowed us to capture a tree up to nine-feet tall (and since we intended to use the tree indoors) we ruled this fine specimen out. The hunt for the “perfect tree” continued. Each new possibility had to be carefully examined to determine its “perfectness.” Moving from tree to tree required tremendous exertion as the hill was covered in shrub oak which grasped at our clothing and poked at our faces each time we moved.

After several more miles of contention-free “facewacking” across the mountain slope we finally found the “perfect tree.” The only problem was the tree appeared to be slightly taller than the permitted 9 feet. We solved this by leaving a taller stump for which tripping deer now curse us. Once the tree was cut we just had to pack it down the brush-covered 87 degree slope back to the faint ribbon of road. Fortunately we had gravity in our favor. We found a steep avalanche chute and covered the distance very quickly and without serious injury to the tree. At the bottom of the chute, quite near the truck we passed two even more “perfect” Christmas trees but decided there had to be something wrong with them as cutting them would have been too easy.

Sometimes when I’m wrong I will admit it and this is one of those times. I was wrong, the real tree (when placed in the new $25 tree stand) is more beautiful than our old threadbare stick. The old tree did have one advantage over the new real tree. It never tipped over in the middle of the night, spilling water all over the living room and triggering the “Christmas Story” Leg Lamp ornament to blare; “Oh, look at that! Will you look at that? Isn't that glorious? It's... it's... it's indescribably beautiful! It reminds me of the Fourth of July!”

However, since the falling tree and blaring Leg Lamp ornament only woke my wife (who cleaned up the mess while I slept) it really was the “perfect tree.”