December 8, 2016
When you live and work in Grand County you are pretty privileged.
The surrounding mountains provide a constant backdrop of beauty. The recreation opportunities made possible by our local lakes and mountains are almost too vast to comprehend and for those of us who enjoy the snow there's no need to wish for a white Christmas.
One of the simplest and yet most unique opportunities available to residents of the high country is the ease with which you can cut down your own Christmas tree. No, I'm not talking about a tree farm where you walk down a row of individually planted pines and try to pick from trees that barely differ in appearance. I'm talking about wandering through the woods, breaking trail through knee-deep snow, spending a few hours searching for the perfect specimen; then cutting it down and hauling it back across snow covered trails to home.
This last weekend my family and I headed out to the Idleglen area to search among the seemingly endless expanse of lodgepole pines for our own little piece of the holidays. This was the second year we have cut down our own Christmas tree and both years the experience has been a magical part of our holiday season. Last year we also took our Christmas tree from the Idleglen area.
If you have never cut down your own Christmas tree in the forest I highly recommend it. The experience is truly unique and is a fun little outing for the whole family; not to mention it provides plenty of opportunities to reference my favorite holiday movie "Christmas Vacation"
Our outing began around mid-morning Sunday Dec. 4. We stopped in to Granby's Country Ace Hardware to pick up our permit; unfortunately we had to run back to the bank to grab a ten-dollar bill after the sales associate gently reminded us Christmas tree permits must be paid with cash, no checks or credit/debit cards.
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After getting our permit, and the accompanying sheet listing the regulations and restrictions for cutting down a Christmas tree in Grand County, we headed back home briefly to gather a few snacks before heading out. The roads in the Idleglen area are already covered in hard pressed snowpack and a kindly neighbor let us borrow her truck for the day (my Jeep is a bit small to carry a tree inside, something we swore off after filling the cab with pine needles last year).
From the Idleglen staging area we headed up a nearby trial and off into the woods. During the early fall my family went hiking through the area scouting for a tree we would cut down for Christmas. That trip had been fruitful, yielding a small pine we had planned to take later in the year, unfortunately as we moved off trail to reach the tree we had scouted we realized the profound truth of the old saying, "looks can be deceiving". The tree we had scouted in the fall was in fact a pair of trees that together were ideal but individually were not what we were looking for.
After wandering along the sides of the trail for another hour, zigzagging through the small groves and pine stands, we eventually found what we were looking for. The small pine was just a bit under five-feet tall with a base of about three-inches. It was well tapered, fairly symmetrical and thick enough to make us happy. Fortunately it was not a heavy tree so we did not have to struggle with dragging it back over the varied terrain of the Idleglen area. I instead carried it hoisted over my shoulder most of the way.
The tree now rests in a stand in our dining room and soon enough small presents will begin appearing at its base. For my family cutting down our Christmas tree has become the unofficial start of our holiday season. I hope you get out there this year, or next, and experience the unique joy of cutting down your own Christmas tree in the forest. Just remember to check for squirrels.
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