Last weekend my daughter and I drove up into the woods to cut down a Christmas tree. We try to do it every year for three very important reasons:
- It might be the only chance we have all winter to play in the snow, since it rarely snows in our Southern Oregon banana-belt town.
- I grew up in Montana as a purist and a naturalist, and we always cut down our own tree. To me, nothing says Christmas like a tree you have to hike forever to find, and has one or more bad sides that are best placed against the wall.
- I am cheap. Five dollars to the Forest Service is a lot better deal than seventy-five to the tree lot people!
Armed with our three noble reasons, we packed our little two-wheel drive car with hats, gloves, sweaters, coats and extra shoes (no, we don’t even own boots) and ventured out into the wild unknown. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t exactly unknown, since we were headed toward our usual summer camping destination.
Still, we were on an adventure, glad to leave the rain behind in search of snow. As we got higher in elevation we came upon a sign that warned us . . . chains required 25 miles ahead.
We do not carry chains, being the irresponsible people that we are. However, I wasn’t worried because I knew we’d reach the forest service boundary before we hit the 25-mile mark. Plus, I had something with me many Oregonians don’t have.
I had thirty years of experience driving in severe Montana winter driving conditions, which had to be at least on par with carrying chains. Okay, so maybe not exactly thirty years, since I didn’t start driving until I was four years old.
However, since my daughter was born in Oregon, I thought she should drive to gain experience. You know, the kind where she is the one behind the wheel but someone else is telling her what to do?
So, there we were, going along happy as can be where only trucks and four-wheel drive vehicles would dare to go, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the pretty white flurries falling from the sky, sticking to the trees, and covering the road.
As soon as we reached the entrance to forest service land, the road became significantly more wintery. I still wasn’t worried, though, because we planned to pull off onto the first side road we came to, and start hiking around in search of our Christmas tree.
Everything went exactly as planned. We soon came to a side road and pulled off. However, after driving only a short distance I thought, “This is not good. We need to get out of here.”
The snow was too deep and too wet and falling too fast and I didn’t pack enough almonds for us to survive the winter, so I did what any responsible parent would do in that situation. I thanked my daughter for getting us this far, asked her to move over to the passenger seat, and got behind the wheel.
I did a quick review of all my Montana driving experience, which took a few minutes to access since I haven’t lived in Montana for over 20 years. Then, I tried to recall the physics and mathematical calculations that were involved in determining the best way to turn around without getting stuck. But, I was never very good at physics or math so I didn’t let myself get hung up on all that scientific stuff.
Once I had decided upon the best course of action, I carried it out beautifully and had us turned around in no time. I thought we were out of our pickle, but it wasn’t long before we encountered another.
There was so much slushy snow that our first attempt to get back up onto the highway was unsuccessful. So was our second. I knew we’d have to get a run at it, but that’s tricky when you can’t really see if anyone is coming from either direction.
Therefore, we did what anyone without chains (or even snow tires) would do in that situation. We backed up, looked both ways, prayed, crossed our fingers, and when it seemed like a good time to go for it . . . we went for it!
I stepped on the gas, leaning forward to make me feel like I was helping. When I could feel our car losing traction crawling up the slippery slope, I patted the dashboard in encouragement saying, “Go baby, go baby, go baby, GO!”
They say you should always talk nicely to your vehicle when you are in distress. While I doubt cars have feelings, I do think my kindness had an impact, because our little Go Baby (that’s our car’s name) — she went! She made it!
We were so grateful to get back up onto the highway and headed back in the direction from whence we came! Mind you, we still didn’t have a tree, but we had the pride that comes from knowing we should have brought chains but didn’t — and still didn’t need to be rescued because of being born and raised in the Rocky Mountains!
Even so, I didn’t want to push our luck, because only one of us had been born and raised in the Rockies. And that particular one of us (namely, me) had also done another irresponsible thing you are never supposed to do. I had neglected to tell anyone where we were going. In fact, I hadn’t even told anyone that we were going!
Since I was well aware my adventurous spirit was bordering on recklessness, I did what any penitent parent would do in that situation. I drove to the Ranger Station a mile down the road. I left our Go Baby in the parking lot, where she’d have less trouble getting out and where she’d would be easy to spot if they ended up sending a search party.
Then we hiked a long way back into the wintry woods (leaving plenty of tracks), until we found the perfectly imperfect Christmas tree! We cut it down, carried it back to the car, stuffed it in the trunk, and brought it home like a trophy we’d fought all day to win.
After naming it Arbolita (Spanish for little tree), we gave it a place of honor in our living room. Mission accomplished, we rewarded ourselves by sitting down to watch the funny videos we made trekking through the snow in our winter wonderland.
We felt proud of ourselves for being triumphant, for being optimistic, for being adventurous, and for getting a Christmas tree for only five dollars! Okay, so it was actually $5 plus $9.99 for the pruning saw because we couldn’t find ours. But, hey, we needed a new pruning saw anyway. As for chains . . . what fun would that be?