Our $5 Christmas tree

Clark Griswold showed me how Christmas tree adventures could live on forever.  When we lived on a sailboat, a 1ft pre-lit tree was the limit.  When we lived in little apartment in Germany, it was a 1 ft live version we bought at OBI. When we moved to Boston, I wanted a big tree, but more importantly, every time I looked at it, I wanted to remember the story of that tree.

The U.S. Forest Service in Massachusetts didn’t have anything on tree harvesting permits, but Vermont and New Hampshire did! I called the White Mountain Visitor Center in NH (603-745-3816), and it sounded as simple as:

  1. Go there
  2. Pay $5 cash for a band tag
  3. Harvest the perfect Christmas tree

Really?  Was it OK that I was from Massachusetts – Yes. Are there actually any trees there to cut – Yes. Am I forgetting to ask something — I couldn’t answer that (chuckling).

So while trees in Boston were selling for $150, I loaded up my family on a cold but snowless day and drove 2.5 hrs north to the White Mountain Visitor Center, 200 Kancamagus Highway in North Woodstock, NH (I-93, exit 32).  While the boys were poking the stuffed black bear in the corner, I paid the $5 and was given a golden ticket to adventure (gold is fluorescent orange in this case).  She gave me a map, recommended a few areas, and we were off!

The subtext was:

  • tree had to be less than 20 feet tall
  • tree had to be cut off less than 6″ from the ground
  • one tree per household, and I verified that it was for personal use
  • tree had to be more than 25 feet from the road (NO PROBLEM!)

We jumped on the Kancamagus Highway (112) and found lots of trees as well as the first snow any of us had seen all year.  Reaching the mountain pass, we turned around and found an easy spot to park off the side of the highway.  We found a tree, cut it down with a big TIMBER, discovered it truly was Griswold sized when we made it back to the car, cut it down and loaded it up.

We saw lots of Christmas trees on the road, some pointed into the wind rather than downwind, but I felt confident ours was tied on the right away, and uneventfully made it back home.  Yes, it was too big again, so I cut it down again in the front yard.

Is it ugly — I think it screams character!  I wonder what next year’s tree will look like!

[$, fun 4/5, nature 4/5, time 8h]


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