Because of my school schedule, Mike and I got a tree a little early this year (early by rational standards, I mean, not capitalism standards). We’ve cut trees from “u-cut” lots and off our own land before, but never on public land. We wondered where to go.
This decision turned out to be a process of elimination: the pamphlet that came with our $5 permit from the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest listed a number of off-limit areas. “Please follow these simple rules,” it read:
Cut your tree at least 50 feet from the road. Cutting is prohibited on active timber sales or areas planted with new trees. Cutting is prohibited on private land, wilderness areas, designated campgrounds, or existing tree plantations. Cutting is prohibited in posted old-growth areas or within a quarter-mile of wild and scenic corridors. Cutting is prohibited within sight of a state highway. Cutting is prohibited in the Baker City watershed (wherever that is), Anthony Lakes Campground or Ski Area, Starkey Experimental Forest, La Grande watershed (ditto), or Hurricane Creek or Lostine drainages.
Whew! Okay! Hurricane Creek was already out, as we know it to be the territory of leg-hold fur trappers. Every year a dog gets caught up in one of those traps. Not only is the trapper not liable, you can actually get in trouble for moving the trap! Never mind your poor dog. Having two curious dogs, we don’t want anything to do with Hurricane Creek until April, when the season ends.
Lucky for us, there are numerous routes into the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest that are just minutes from our house. We drove toward Ruby Peak, rumbled slowly up the forest road and parked almost in time to get Cap’n out of the cab to barf (she still has trouble with bumps and curves). Then we walked until we crossed into the forest and starting sizing up trees.
It didn’t take long to find a sweet little pine tree. It had a great shape, was the perfect size, and was not too far from the path (but not too close either—don’t want to bum anyone out on their nature walk by presenting a stump). We considered a few others and decided that was our tree.
I felt a little guilty, murdering a tree in front of its friends and family. But …
It took only a few swipes of the saw, and we were ready to haul it back to the rig. I pulled the permit tag from my pocket, but it was too hard to work the zip-tie wearing my gloves. I doffed them and started wrapping the tag around the trunk—OUCH!
I looked more closely at the tree. A spruce? We cut down a damn spruce??
As you stalwarts of the forest know: Never shake hands with a spruce. Each needle is just that—a needle. Unlike the friendly Douglas fir or grand fir, or even the elegant Ponderosa pine, the spruce does not want to be your friend.
However, the deed was done. It was still a beautiful tree; we would just have to be very, very careful when trimming it. Very careful.