I’ve collected trees in all manner of locales. But this is the first time I’ve chopped down a Christmas tree in the rain with neighbouring ferns.
We drove out Monday afternoon once I was done work, followed the FrontCounter BC map to a forest service road north of town and kept our eyes peeled for the tell-tale signs of Christmas-y conifer.
Things weren’t looking promising at first. The sun was going down and the foliage was looking decidedly coastal. But on we persisted until we happened upon an area with potential. Stands of Goldilocks-sized trees peered down at us from a hillside.
With the car parked safely off the road, my boyfriend and I started bushwhacking to take a closer look. Armed with a hatchet and a pocket saw – tools of the Christmas tree trade – we approached one, then another would catch our eye.
There was an overabundance of options. We had never been this Christmas tree option rich before.
Cutting down your own Christmas tree isn’t for everyone. It’s wet and can be dirty, plus once you’ve picked out your tree, then you have to actually cut it down without making a mess and transport it back to your home. And you only get one shot.
The good news is that despite all that, it’s not actually super complicated. You print out a Christmas tree permit – available online from the Campbell River Natural Resource District office, sign it, then pick an area on the map where you’ll go. You can’t pick a tree from just anywhere. Private land is off limits. So are plantations, research areas, parks, watersheds, juvenile-spaced areas and any place reserved for a special use.
That whole part about only getting one shot? It’s serious. The permit says : “This Free Use Permit authorizes the Permittee to cut 1 and only 1 Christmas tree for their own personal use. Make sure it is the tree you want before you cut it.”
FrontCounter BC also has a few pointers when it comes to tree-cutting etiquette.
“Do: pick the perfect tree before cutting, do: ensure it fits on your vehicle to avoid trimming, do: cut cleanly at the base, don’t: leave unsafe pointed stumps, and don’t leave debris to fuel summer fires.”
We take one last look at our chosen tree before taking the saw out. It falls without issue and we drag it back to the car.
As we push our way through the shrubbery, I think back to our first Christmas tree hunt together.
It was 2016, snow covered as far as the eye could see and it was cold. Like, really cold. Sun dogs hovered on the horizon as we plunged our booted feet into the snow and scouted for the perfect specimen. What we ended up with instead was the most Charlie Brown looking tree you’ve ever seen. But it was our very own and looked fantastic all covered with bobbles and sparkling lights.
We set our tree up earlier this week after our moratorium on Christmas-y things was lifted (Dec. 1, but I may have snuck in a few holiday playlists and one or two flicks early. Shh– I won’t tell if you don’t.)
The holiday tunes rang out – only a couple records. My boyfriend has to ease into the season. I unwrapped ornament after ornament and we took turns placing them on the tree. Finally we turned out all the lights and plugged in the tree. A great holiday reveal of our first coastal specimen.