For 45 years, the National Forest Service has provided the nation’s capitol with it’s Christmas tree. And this year it came from “our forest.” Not only is our cabin in the Chippewa National Forest, we actually lease the land it sits on from the Forest Service. So I feel justified in identifying with this tree. Not only that, but the man who cut it down – Minnesota’s logger of the year – was from Marcell. Home to the bait shop, just down the road from the cabin. It doesn’t get much more personal than that.
I honestly knew very little about this Christmas tree program before now. I missed it entirely in 1992, the last time the Chippewa National Forest provided the tree. But something about this year’s tree peaked my interest. I was fascinated when reading about how it was cut down. One doesn’t just fell a Christmas tree. No “timmmmber” for this tree. It was painstakingly secured and carefully lowered by two gigantic cranes onto a specially built wooden crib on a flatbed truck. There it was wrapped and cradled for its 2,000 mile journey to Washington DC. At 88 feet tall, this white spruce required a 100-foot long truck and trailer for its transportation.
Out of the 30 stops the tree will make along the way, one of them was in Duluth. It was scheduled for this evening, and I decided I had to be there. So camera in hand, bundled in winter jacket, hat and gloves, I headed down to Bayfront Park.
I’m not sure what I expected to see. Surely, I should have realized it would be housed in its truck. But still I felt rather underwhelmed to only be able to see a few branches of the tree through the windows at the back of its special truck. Like everyone else around me, however, I took my requisite pictures of the truck.
Having anted up my $5 for parking, I wasn’t willing to leave it at that. The park was brimming with families, enjoying the bonfires, s’mores, hot chocolate and cookies on offer. With a good share of Bentleyville lights already glowing, it had an eerie feeling of early Christmas without the snow or deep chill. I’m not a fan of pushing the Christmas season so far in advance, but this particular celebration seemed justified by the presence of The Tree.
Wandering over to the booths, I was soon engaged in conversation with the folks from the Chippewa National Forest. There we traded Marcell stories and expressed mutual love for North Star Lake. I met a man from Choose Outdoors, a non-profit organization that supports public lands by promoting outdoor recreation and an active lifestyle. Now that was right up my alley. He was part of the support crew for the tree’s journey, and in fact had accompanied several Christmas trees from their source all the way to Washington DC.
My conversations transformed the evening. Suddenly it felt quite enchanted. The joyful spirit of the families surrounding me was infectious. And returning to the tree’s truck, I realized just how long it really was. Not your ordinary semi. Quite impressive, really.
May the nation enjoy Minnesota’s tree when it first lights up on December 2. O Christmas Tree indeed.