One of my favorite backcountry trips is our annual Christmas tree harvest. It’s always fun driving into the highcountry and getting a taste of winter in a way that’s more about taking a close look at the woods than hunting for powder turns.
|Getting our tree. We backcountry skied past where most other pickers trudge to, so we had a good pick of the crop.|
When you go to the Forest Service office to get a tree cut permit, they read you the riot act about not cutting any Blue Spruce (our state tree). Of course it follows that Blue Spruce are nice bushy things that make the best Christmas trees. Hence, it always amuses me when during a weekend before Christmas we drive to the harvest spot, and observe numerous SUVs heading down the road with Blue Spruce proudly displayed on their roof racks.
Truth be told, when you just moved here from the city, then stumbled though knee deep snow into the forest with your wife and three kids, you’re going to cut the first tree that looks good, not try to be a naturalist and spend time examining spruce needles trying to figure out the difference between a Blue and an Engleman — or a Doug Fir for that matter.
In our case we do know how to tell the difference, so rather than risk “jail time” (which is how the ranger described the consequences of cutting a Blue), we cut an Engleman. Ironically, we cut our tree this year out of a power line path where all trees are cut by loggers every few years — including any Blue Spruce. Makes me laugh when I think power line loggers trump family Christmas tree pickers when it comes to who gets to cut a Blue. Seriously — shows you where our American priorities are. No wonder we have too much carbon dioxide. I say get rid of the power lines and let us cut a few Blue Spruce for our favorite holiday. Hmmm, perhaps getting off the grid has more going for it than I thought.
|Sweet to look around the winter wild. This year the willows near a wetland had an amazing amount of hoard frost hanging off their branches.|
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.