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Cutting Down Your Own Christmas Tree, Nevada Style

Christmas TreeIf you were to live in the great state of Nevada, you would know that, if you were so inclined, you could go to the Bureau of Land Management office, give them $5 and get a permit to go out onto the National Forest Service Land and cut yourself down a Christmas tree.
Back before we had kids, my husband and I were adventurous people with time and energy to spare so in 2009, we decided to do just this.

Growing up on the east coast (where trees actually, you know, occur naturally), we always picked out our tree at a Christmas tree farm and then went and cut it down ourselves. After we finished college, my husband and I shamefully bought our Christmas trees at the Target parking lot in Florida or the Hilton parking lot here in the Wild West (you know it was awhile ago because the Hilton is no longer the Hilton. But it was the Hilton when we got our Christmas tree there. Anyway).

In 2009, we decided that we were going to be real Nevadans and cut down our own tree. A few weeks prior to Christmas, I went to the Bureau of Land Management office, gave them my $5 and got our permit. I asked for a map, showing where it is that we can cut trees. The lady told me, “You go on Johnson Lane.” Um, ok but I don’t know where that is, can I have a map? With a heavy sigh and an eye roll, like I had just asked her to give me the last piece of her Kit-Kat, she handed me a topographical map of the area where we’re allowed to cut down trees. Um, ok but this doesn’t help me – it doesn’t say how to get to where we can cut down the trees. “It’s on Johnson Lane,” she repeated, unable to comprehend how on earth I was this unbelievably stupid.

Ok, thanks.

So I left with my permit and my topographical map. Our little corner of the Wild West isn’t that big so I figured that someone whose ass a termite hadn’t crawled up and died recently, would be able to tell us where it is. And if worse came to worse, I would just go to that lady’s house and steal her Christmas tree.

Then the husband and I headed out to Johnson Lane. After about 3 miles, Johnson Lane turns into a dirt road. The dirt road the splits to the right and left. I say we should try right. The husband thinks left. We go left. Now, I know that we live in the desert and therefore there isn’t really an abundance of trees but I was thinking that since the BLM was selling these permits to people that there would actually be some trees to cut down.

We took the left fork in the road as far as we could drive which was about .2 miles and then we got out. We looked around and saw exactly 0 trees. We walked for awhile and still saw exactly 0 trees although we did see a million shot gun shells and a TV and a water heater that had been blown to smithereens. There were plenty of juniper bushes but not a single pinion pine in sight. So we decided to go back and try the right fork.

We followed the right fork for 12 miles and finally came across some pine trees. So we got out with our hatchet (because, according to my husband, hatchets are the way to go – saws are for losers) and went tromping around, looking for a tree.

I don’t know if we were too late or if finding a pine tree in the desert is just difficult to do but the pickins were slim. Most of the trees looked less like trees and more like bushes. They were round and short. Some had 3 tops. Some caused me to say, “Where do you plan on putting a tree that size? … Bend over and I’ll show ya.” and then laugh hysterically at myself for awhile.

But we were determined to put our $5 to good use. We found an acceptable tree and my lumberjack husband hatcheted it down.

Then he carried it out of the gully.

It was little and lopsided and kind of sad looking but we cut it down ourselves and can now say that we have used a pinion pine as a Christmas tree, which, according to the “You Know You’re a Nevadan If…” book, is a must.

Now that we have kids, the absolute last thing I want to do is drag everyone into the wilderness, Clark Griswold style, and look for a “tree”. Last year my mom accused me of having lost my sense of adventure because I told her we weren’t going to cut down our own tree. And I told her I wasn’t going with her to cut down her tree. (I did tell her she was more than welcome to take the kids with her to cut down her tree.) And you know what? It’s true. I am old and tired and grouchy and I would rather send my husband to Smith’s to pick out a tree, along with the gallon of milk that we need.

Because in that scenario, I don’t have to wrestle anyone in their coats, hats and mittens. I don’t have to them wrestle them all into the car. And then hear them whine and cry about how they’re cold/wet/tired/hungry when we get where we’re going. In this scenario they get the experience of going Christmas tree hunting with their Grandma and Grandpa and I get to nap on the couch.

And that, is a Christmas miracle!


About Anna Thornley

Anna Thornley
Anna Thornley is a Jersey Girl living in the Wild West with her husband, their three children (with another one on the way) and two dogs. She desperately misses the beach and humidity but tries to remember to appreciate the beauty of the mountains. She works full-time outside of the home and is generally frantic in her attempts to keep everyone (and everything) moving in the right direction. Her house is a mess, but everyone in it is happy and loved—so she considers it a success. Anna spends almost all of her free time doing laundry. Her family loves to spend time together watching football and playing outside. Anna is still trying to come to terms with the fact that her family expects to eat dinner every single night. Follow Anna on Twitter to keep up with all her family’s antics: @rudeytudeymama

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