“We want something between a Charlie Brown tree, and the Griswold family Christmas tree,” I said to whoever may have been paying attention to me at that moment. It was a frivolous statement as my spatially-gifted spouse would never need advice on the size or dimensions of anything, and the kids were too busy Snapchatting themselves singing sped up Christmas carols to care.
Like the Griswolds, driving to the hills to pick out our family Christmas tree is all part of our holiday experience. It traditionally starts with a wee bit of chaos in the morning as we discover yet again, the children have outgrown their snow clothes, and that we still own a leaky Thermos. We navigate both of those situations; pack a picnic, a saw and sleds, and pile into our truck with Christmas songs playing, and head to our local Forest Service office where we pick up our $10 tree harvesting permit and maps of designated cutting areas.
This year, the day we chose to make our pilgrimage was perfect. Temperatures were in the high 20s and the sun was out. The mountain was out too, so when we stopped at the Forest Service office we made sure to ask which roads would offer the best views. The ranger we spoke with was extremely helpful, and suggested FS 72 out of Greenwater. We were after a noble fir, as well as the great mountain scenery, so we headed east out of Enumclaw, toward the top of the road where we could find both.
Having a choice of hundreds of potential Christmas trees to cut can initially seem a little daunting, especially if you have the entire hill to yourselves. It’s also pretty amazing. After some searching we found the perfect contender and cut our tree. Next, we spent a ridiculous amount of time trying not to be outsmarted by the timer on our iPhone, and eventually captured a picture-perfect Christmas card photo. Mountains were out in every direction, so it was worth the effort! We also started snowball fights and initiated sled races, as well as enjoyed what was left of the cocoa in our leaky Thermos, and devoured our picnic lunch. On our way back we stopped at Wapati Woolies in Greenwater to pick up a mountain-themed gift for a city-dwelling friend of mine. The store carries its own brand of warm winter hats.
Mountain communities such as Enumclaw and Eatonville both hold annual Christmas parades, tree lighting ceremonies and pictures with Santa. Some Mt. Rainier-area lodging establishments offer tree-cutting permits as part of their winter stay and play packages; so definitely consider staying longer, and enjoy more sledding and holiday family time. Going mid-week offers an opportunity to save on your lodging costs and you can often have the whole hill to yourself. Weekends are usually more convenient for most folks, so know that the narrow roads can get congested in some spots. There are also some self-made fire pits scattered around the tree cutting areas so roasting marshmallows and hot dogs can also be part of the fun.