Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Cutting Your Christmas Tree in the Arizona Mountains

It's not going in our yard...
**As you read this post, there is a hidden game. How many quotes from Christmas Vacation can you

I love Christmas! There isn't an area of our house that isn't covered in lights, decorations, candles, or peppermint. There is no such thing as too much when it comes to Christmas. But this year, we decided to try something different. We still did the lights and the trains and the decorations. But in 2021 we teamed up with our neighbors and kicked off our fun, old-fashioned family Christmas by heading out into the mountains in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols. 

So this year we decided to drive to the Arizona mountains and cut down our own Christmas tree. Here's what I discovered:

- Arizona has five National Forests (Apache-Sitegraves, Coconino, Kaibab, Prescott, and Tonto) that sell permits for Christmas Trees. 

- Permits cost $15-$20 each, depending on the National Forest, and allow you to cut a tree up to 10 feet tall (Apache-Sitegraves allows trees up to 15 feet tall)

The kids approve. 
- Each National Forest has a number of cutting areas and species available to cut. 

- Cutting dates vary by National Forest, but some allow you to cut your tree as early as October (that's ambitious, even for me). 

So armed with two permits, two dads and their kids (five total) loaded up in two trucks to go to the mountains to get our family Christmas trees (it helped that we already have a stupid tie with little Santa Clauses all over it). And since our wives were not with us, there was nothing to stop us from overestimating the height of our living room ceilings. 

We drove for about two hours and turned off onto the gravel road that ran through the middle of the cutting zone that we chose. While we ended up on a small dirt road that definitely needed four-wheel-drive to navigate, the main road would have definitely worked for a car or smaller SUV, and even a wood panel station wagon would have been able to handle it (just don't forget the saw). 

Fully decorated

After about an hour of walking through the forest, we found our tree. Was it the perfect Christmas tree? Yes and no. It was not a perfect triangular shaped tree, with perfect, full branches. But it was the tree that my kids and I liked, and the one that drew our eye. And much like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, this one needed a home for the holidays. 

Note: as you are wandering through the forest looking for your tree, be sure to mark where your potential choices are so you can make your way back to them. Our kids marked the path with sticks and rocks so we could find them after looking at several options. 

Yes, we did remember the saws, and no, we did not have to dig the trees up (although part of me really wanted to dig the tree out of the ground and drive home with a giant rootball hanging off the back of the truck, just for comedic effect). And while my 11-year-old took some time to warm up to the tree (she initially didn't think the tree looked good enough, although, in all honesty, it looked quite wonky before it had lights and ornaments), we had fun memories of cutting down our first Christmas tree. 

The little dog approves. 

If you are interested in cutting down a tree, I encourage you to look into the rules and regulations of your area and follow them. And even though you may think they're dirty and messy and corny and cliched, please do not cut down your neighbor's tree, no matter how desperate you are. 

From Chandler, Arizona, to wherever you are in the world, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays! 

Merry Christmas! For more decorating tips, click here