On December first there was a high overcast, but you could see Mount Shasta's summit and no precipitation was falling. We decided it was the day to get our permit at the Forest Service Office downtown and go cut our 1998 Christmas tree. The $10 fee includes a map showing the permissible cutting areas on Mount Shasta and elsewhere. There are thousands of acres on the mountain where cutting is allowed as long as it's at least 200 feet from the road. We decided to go back to the area where we'd found our tree in 1997 -- an old logging trail off Everett Memorial Highway at an elevation of about 6000 feet.
This time we had snow-shoes which would allow us to reach areas that we hadn't been able to the year before. Actually the snow wasn't quite as deep as it was at the same time in 1997, though still deep enough to require snow-shoes. But, the big difference was that every branch of every fir and pine was heavily laden with snow. It was just about as beautiful a sight as nature can produce in the winter. I've tried to come up with a phrase that captures the impression and the best I can do is extravagant elegance. However there was a practical problem with this stunning scene -- you couldn't be sure of your selected tree's true character until after you'd cut it down and gotten it to a place where you could knock all the snow and ice off.
After trekking in from the road about a quarter mile, passing up a few prospects that might have been reached, we came to an area where several of the right size were within snow-shoe range. After some uncertainty we finally put the saw to a specimen that seemed at least the right size. It was down a pretty steep slope and dragging it back to the trail was a struggle in deep snow with a tennis racket on each foot. One thing the struggle did was dislodge a good deal of the snow from the tree -- enough in fact that by the time we could carefully examine our tree, we discovered it was not a Shasta fir, which is the species of choice, but a less desirable Douglas fir. Also it was just a tad lop-sided. Oh well it was our tree and it sure was fresh. Besides, Jennie's feet were getting colder by the second and it looked like it might start snowing any minute. We snapped a photo of the hunter and his quarry and, with tree in tow, shoed back down to the waiting Jeep. There we taped the permit to the tree, lashed the tree to the luggage rack, and drove back down the mountain.
About a week later we brought the tree into the house and found that it had a certain lacy elegance that hadn't been apparent before. What's more the tree's asymmetry wasn't so much lopsidedness as a kind of dynamic quality -- it looked as if it were about to glide gracefully across the room. The ugly "Dougling" had won our hearts.
The next night with all its lights twinkling and the familiar ornaments hanging from its graceful bows our little Doug fir looked like a real Christmas tree. It was almost as beautiful as it had been on the mountain, decorated only with snow.