The Great Christmas Tree Hunt of 2015

Black Friday is my least favorite day of the year. Not because of the crowds – I don’t go shopping – but because of the snow, the ice, the altitude, the cold, the snowmobiles, the sheer bloody terror. On Black Friday we have The Great Christmas Tree Hunt. I married into this unholy ritual. What was I thinking?

Since time immemorial (that is, since whenever it was Matt and I started dating 10 or more years ago) I have had the screaming shit frightened out of me the day after Thanksgiving by the combined efforts of my husband (who fears not death), Matt’s family, Segelson ridge, frozen precipitation, motor vehicle failures, and reckless off-road driving.

The rules are:

  1. No one goes up the mountain until everyone is assembled. The party must advance as a convoy. Departure time is annually announced as 9:00 am but is usually not achieved until closer to noon as not all parties are A) dressed, B) sober, C) present, D) answering their phones,  E) other, as applicable.
  2. No one goes home until everyone has a tree. Sounds easy, I know, but some party members (who will not be named, to avoid legal repercussions) fall in love with and order cut and then, on closer inspection, despise up to five trees a year. (You can’t take a tree off the hill without a permit and there’s just one permit per household so the ones this person dislikes must be left behind.)
  3. No one can go home until at least one vehicle has been seriously broken in some way or has slid completely off the road (all four tires must be off gravel and a tow with a chain is required). Viable options I have witnessed include: A) fuel line disconnection, B) transmission line disconnection, C) punctured tire, D) severed brake line(s). I know from experience that regardless of precipitation, windshield wiper failure is not an acceptable breakage. (“Stick yer head out the window.” “Tie a stick to one of ’em and push it with yer hand.”)

The first few years I was dragged along attended this nightmare tradition there were snowmobiles involved. We convoyed up to the Sno-Park in trucks and then convoyed up to the cell tower on snowmobiles. Nothing could have prepared me for how much I would hate snowmobiles. A lifetime of riding bitch on everything from 2-stroke dirt bikes to chopped Harleys was insufficient preparation for the horrifying speed, the pitch and yaw, the painful stinging cold, and the nauseating view from a balls-out snowmobile piloted by a man who has already been legally dead once on a bright November day on a switchback on a 5,000-foot high ridge with not so much as a desiccated huckleberry bush to catch you if you roll or miss the corner.

This was the year I was finally going to weasel out of attending. The Great Christmas Tree Hunt is my least favorite day of the year (yes, after tax day and my pap smear). But it was Matt’s mom’s favorite day of the year (right after Christmas itself). And in July she died. And we all loved her like crazy (even me – not all mothers-in-law are evil). So this would have been the worst year to weasel out of attending.

So I didn’t. I went. And this was the first year that I bailed out of the truck before we “got to the trees.” (No really – that’s what they call it. Never mind the thousands of trees that we drive past on the 7 to 10 miles of Forest Service roads we lumber up to get to our destination. All that matters is the one species that the Finks crave: the Silver Fir. And they don’t grow below 4,900 feet above sea level.)

On the upside I didn’t puke this year.

I also learned something very valuable: if I bring chili and cinnamon rolls then next year they’ll let me out at the big Y (where it’s usually just muddy and not yet icy and snowy) and come back to get me and my food and fire when they’re done sacrificing timber to the great saw god, Stihl.

Noted. Perhaps I won’t weasel out next year, either.


The view from where we parked. Off in the distance, appearing to float on clouds, are the Olympics! I could see my brother’s little neighborhood down in the valley.


My favorite mountain: Whitehorse. This was our view on the way back down.


Matt (dude), Jayne (truck), and my tree.


Bobcat prints!

— Amanda


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