Cut Your Own Tree? You Bet.

Clark Griswold did do one thing right. In the effort to make a old-fashioned family Christmas truly meaningful, there is nothing like making an annual pilgrimage to the great outdoors in search of the Family Christmas Tree. Want to try it? Here are a few AKontheGO tips and tricks for readers to avoid such Sparky boo-boos as forgetting the saw or becoming frozen from the hips down.

My family never purchased a Christmas tree. For my father, a forester, the thought of actually shelling out cold, hard cash in exchange for something that grew in the nearby woods was unthinkable. So off we went in our Volkswagen bus, every Christmas, to procure trees that, while not always perfect, were nonetheless ideal for their time and place in our home.

Alaskans are fortunate to have several opportunities to search for and cut down their own Tree of the Season, and many already have, judging by the number of cars we spotted last weekend on the Seward Highway. If you have not yet put up your tree, consider this family-friendly, sure-to-please day trip that appeals to kids not only for its outdoor factor, but also for the chance to do the choosing. Hey, it’s a big deal to pick the tree that you’ll all be staring at from now until New Year’s day.

Three options are available for families in the greater Anchorage/Mat-Su area:

Chugach National Forest and the Department of Natural Resources offer a number of sites for tree-cutting, and a fair amount of rules, so be sure to check their web sites first. The boundaries that divide public from private land are not visible, so families have to be careful of what they cut, and where. But the trees are plentiful, and available one per family. The best place, we hear, is past Bertha Creek Campground after Mile 65.6 on the Seward Highway. Folks must cut 450 feet from roads, trails, etc. and there is no topping allowed (sorry, Clark).

Another option closer to home is through the military base connections. Both Fort Richardson Army Base and Elmendorf Air Force Base offer permit systems to cut trees on base property. But, families MUST check in at the appropriate offices first for a map, and permit (and pay a small fee). The Elmendorf main number is 552-1110, and Fort Rich’s main number is 384-1110. Call for the latest info concerning Yuletide trees.

Equipment required is simple; a bow saw. Not everyone has one of these woodcutter’s friends, so make tracks to the hardware store and purchase one. With a slender blade and its pull/push action, the bow saw makes cutting trees much, much easier. Remember, too, that Christmas trees need to be cut as close to the ground as possible.

Take plenty of snacks, cocoa, and warm clothing for everybody, and make sure you orient youreslves with a map upon heading out to look for trees, as one can easily become turned around in the woods. Please know where you are before you leave your car.

Live trees need tons of water to keep fresh and green. My mother puts a can of Lemon-Lime soda in the water every few days to give the tree an added boost of energy. She swears by this method, and her trees always stay up until January 6, so she must be on to something.

Happy harvesting!

Posted in Day Trips.