High Country Christmas

Where a Tree Is a Tree

Story and Photos by Clell G. Ballard

There never was a question where our family’s Christmas tree would come from. For generations, my family and that of my wife Marilyn have lived in a sparsely populated part of Camas County north of the Snake River Plain, which could be called the foothills of the Sawtooth Mountains. That means evergreens are not far away.

One-third of the county is public land administrated by the Forest Service. Evergreens of all kinds grow there and, from time to time, public cutting of Christmas trees has been allowed with a permit. As nice as that is, the accessibility of the mountains to get a Christmas tree wherever one can be found doesn’t lend itself to jumping through bureaucratic hoops. Also, since the trees on public land are mostly at high elevations, getting one up there is often difficult in winter conditions.

Most of the thousands of acres in the foothills of the national forest that are partially covered with evergreens and are potential sites for obtaining a tree without Uncle Sam’s permission are owned by private individuals. But those landowners cheerfully gave us permission, because the decrease in their forested areas of one small tree was inconsequential. Although the subject never came up, it was understood that responsible people never cut down a large tree just to take a small, nice part off the top.

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