Roger Marolt: To cut a Christmas tree or a personal check
Some winters are bigger than others and it’s far too early to know how this one will drift into the record books, but it’s starting to get deep out there.
It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas a couple of days after Thanksgiving, and that’s not normal, at least not the new normal.
Two years ago, we trudged into our secret Christmas tree cutting place in low-top hiking boots and sweat pants. I’m pretty sure I didn’t take a jacket and for sure not gloves.
This weekend the snow was so deep that we couldn’t even get to our spot. After trudging through thigh-deep snow until it turned into waist-deep snow, we were exhausted with about a quarter of a mile yet to go. It doesn’t sound that far from the goal while looking at the tree we got in my living room with a glass of eggnog at my side, but in the moment we settled for the two trees closest to us in the woods as it seemed our planned destination may as well have been a trek to the North Pole.
I honestly don’t think we could have gotten there, and if we had we may not have made it back without some assistance from Mountain Rescue Aspen. I’d rather get a lump of coal in my stocking than not be able to extricate myself from any backcountry jam I get myself into or, better yet, get stuck in the jam to begin with. Not having to call them is my annual contribution to their cause. It’s a few thousand dollars they don’t have to spend on a mission. Nobody has to risk his or her life.
And so I found myself on the back end of a 12-foot pine tree, it’s trunk on my shoulder, my head in the branches and eyes straight down on the trail because I could see nothing ahead. All that mattered was where my next step was to be. Backtracking on the loose, powdery trail we had made on the way in would certainly have been easier on the retreat from Winter Wonderland except for the tree. It seemed an interminable slog, too strenuous for mesmerizing reflection. My mind was, unfortunately, the only thing not numb. Every step was pure work, nothing poetic about it.
It kind of sounds like I’m in the process of recounting some kind of macho Christmas tree cutting trip way out in the stormy mountains trying to make you think I am some kind of Grizzly Adams character, so now is probably a good time to tell you that my wife and oldest daughter were ahead of us on the trail carrying a tree about the same size as ours, gutting it out just like us. I was paired with my brother carrying his family’s tree. My girls may be tough as hell, but no one has ever took them for being macho, so there’s your perspective in this story.
I used to feel bad about cutting down a live tree for a holiday decoration, but that passed a long time ago. A typical Christmas tree consists of less wood than you would burn in a fireplace during two cups of hot chocolate. And, a Christmas tree doesn’t spew any smoke into the atmosphere. A self-cut Christmas tree is an all-natural product with no preservatives. They are not made in a smokestack factory. Half the transportation energy consumed results in nothing more than a little extra human body heat. In the end, it will rapidly biodegrade to enrich the soil for the next generation of holiday decorations. The one thing that is kind of funny is that they encourage us to cut the smaller ones instead of the larger ones that are much closer to the ends of their natural lives anyway.
What I’m really driving at is that cutting your own Christmas tree during a big storm cycle in the Rocky Mountains and getting it back home for an evening of decorating is less romantic than it is what I will imaginatively call “a different kind of fun.” Don’t get me wrong, I love it and it really is a prize in my Advent calendar, but if you are not into a little adventure that can easily become a big adventure, you are probably better off cutting a check at the lot to get your tree. I’m certainly not judging. A couple hundred bucks for one of those trucked in trees is cheap compared to the photo-op alternative. The adventure is extra and they don’t include much of that on the lot. The only exception will be if you wait for the last minute to drive over there and pick one out. Then you will be in it up to your neck.
Roger Marolt is ready for Christmas. All that’s left is the last minute shopping and a Christmas Eve trip to the market for more eggnog. Easy! Email him at email@example.com.