Oh Christmas Tree

November 5, 2013

The hunt is on.

By Clark Gillespie

Forget hunting for holiday bargains; we all know, that when it comes to Christmas, it’s the hunt for the perfect tree that matters the most. For some, that may mean scavenging the wilds of supermarket parking lots and roadside tree lots. But, for others, hunting down the perfect tree truly brings us to the wilds of Idaho.

I am one that prefers a more boots-to-the-ground, nose-toward-the-pine approach when it comes to the tree that fills our front window and stands guard over the gifts below. For my family, it’s about the time together, getting out in nature, and defining the holiday in a way that builds a tangible and memorable tradition.

For the past several years, my family and I have packed the Jeep with warm clothes, safety gear, snacks, hot drinks and enough holiday music to last the season, and set off on the highway in search of that perfect tree. The result is a tree that means something to each of us and, for all of us, represents our family’s spirit of the season.

Not surprisingly, we aren’t the only ones that enjoy tree hunting. The US Forest Service sells thousands of $10 tree permits every holiday season. And yes, a permit is required and there are fines for poaching a tree without a permit. Likewise, it is both unethical and unwise (not to mention illegal) to fell a tree on private property without the owner’s permission.

Sales begin at vendor locations begin the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and on November 25, the Forest Service begins selling permits at ranger stations statewide. For a full list of locations, we suggest Googling “Idaho Christmas tree permits” and following the first USDA link you find.

Given its proximity to Boise, it’s not surprising that the trek to The Boise National Forest near Idaho City is the overwhelming favorite for Treasure Valley tree hunters. Likewise, a hidden gem in the Christmas tree hunting game is the Emmett area, up Highways 16 and 52.

But if you’re feeling more adventurous, driving up further gives the mighty hunter two advantages. First; the more remote, the better the selection. Not only are there less people vying for your perfect tree, but the forest is also thicker, and the trees more comely, the further back you go.

Secondly, it ensures less of a chance that you’re trespassing on private property.

Trudy, of Trudy’s Kitchen in Idaho City, says that while she and her fellow business owners love the influx of visitors and are happy to serve hot cocoa and pie to tree hunters, that keeping rogue hunters off their personal property can be frustrating. But, as an Idahoan, you know that it’s always better to be safe than sorry where personal property is concerned.

If you are unsure of where to go, check the web before heading out. The Boise National Forest’s website offers maps of hunt-able regions within its bounds, as do the websites of other area forests. But really, just ask an area Ranger, they’re always happy to help.