Posted by: Michelle Mitton | December 15, 2008

Stalking the Mighty Alaskan Spruce

Cutting a Christmas TreeAt Christmas every year there is the good news and the bad news: The good news is that we get to go out into the wilds of the Last Frontier to cut down our very own Alaskan Christmas tree. The bad news is that we’re getting an Alaskan Christmas tree.

We’re not known for the beauty of our trees, when tourists show up to rave about the scenery they’ll usually leave out the embarrassing part about our trees being all mangy.

Which means that there’s not really any danger of hordes of enthusiastic Christmas tree harvesters deforesting the hills around Anchorage. Our trees are an acquired taste I guess you’d say.

But ugly or not that’s how we’ve got our trees every year since–oh gosh . . . 1949?? In fact to even suggest getting a store-bought tree or artificial tree would be blasphemy so last Monday we put the kids in the car for our annual Christmas tree hunt. Yes, they get to skip school. Report me, I dare you.

Cutting a Christmas TreeGood hunters require sustenance so we always go out to breakfast first though to call the meal we ate a mere “breakfast” is a bit of an understatement. When the waitress set our six meals in front of us they included a 17-pound omelet, 19 orders of hash browns, 42 pancakes, three dozen scrambled eggs, four pounds of bacon, a half-dozen quarts of orange juice, three loaves of bread and two pounds of butter. Oh, and two tiny little packets of jam. Give or take.

In fact when Andrew received his order of chicken fried steak–and here I should interrupt to say that he orders this item every single year, mostly in rebellion against the fact that I’d never let that much cholesterol in my kitchen at home. I think IHOP lists it on the menu as “myocardial infarction on a plate”–I made Andrew put his hand next to the plate just to give you the proper proportions for the vulgarity we’re talking about. You notice that the pile of eggs and the slab o’ meat are so big there wasn’t any room for the hash browns which had to included on a plate of their own? And that didn’t include the four pieces of toast.

Cutting a Christmas TreeThe funny part was that 20 minutes later it was all gone–EVERY BIT. Seriously, the only thing remaining was the crust of toast you see on David’s plate and half a packet of strawberry jam.

Which kind of makes you wonder why they bothered to stop at that last half a packet–I mean if you’ve crammed the equivalent of three entire pigs worth of breakfast meat into your stomach why stop at that last quarter teaspoon of jam? Why not just go for broke because, shoot, you never know when that next meal will be.

I found the whole thing rather mesmerizing as I watched then put away the chow but in one of life’s cruel ironies even though I only ate a third of my food and gave the rest up to them and their gluttony who got sick to their stomach in the car once we left? Well, I’d rather not say. But let’s just say life really isn’t fair sometimes.

Once on the road it was an 80s tune revival as we forced the kids to listen to quality music:

Turning Japanese I think I’m turning Japanese I really think so . . .
(ba da bump bump bump bump ba dum)

as we headed south along the inlet. By the time we’d made it through our crash course in Van Halen, Journey and Run DMC the kids really didn’t care which tree we picked so long as they could get out of the car and away from our tunes.

Cutting a Christmas TreeHere you see Andrew collapsed by the side of the road trying to get the tree they’d cut over the snow berm and onto the car–apparently it was rather slippery and they had a hard time getting a foothold. At least that was his excuse, I rather suspect it was the gallon o’ gravy sitting in his gut that was increasing the earth’s gravitational pull on his stomach.

But at any rate, they found the tree while I was inside the car praying for death from whatever had attacked my intestines.

But at any rate we got a great tree–probably the best ever–with a nice shape and lots of gracefully full branches. In the Alaskan sense of the word. The only blemish was that it had two tops. At first glance we were disturbed at the mutation–who wants a tree with antennae?–but then we kind of grew to like it to the point that we said, “Who says a Christmas tree has to only have ONE top? Why not two? Two is still symmetrical and can be beautiful in its own way right?”

The hardest part was deciding which of the two tops got to wear the star. Hmmmm. . .

If you’re in the area and would like to try this yourself, we went south for about an hour down just past Bertha Creek where it’s legal to cut down an evergreen outside of the Chugach National Forest area. That means if you go down south towards Johnson Pass or Granite Creek/Bertha Creek then you can cut there. They like you to go back from the road a bit–say a 150 yards–and you can only get one but it’s free and you don’t need a permit.

Of course getting a monster breakfast big enough to feed half of South America? That’s going to cost you extra.

Sponsored by Manfred Mantis Play Sets–Play equipment for the 21st century.

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