Writer Maggie McKaig is a singer/songwriter/instrumentalist who makes her home outside of Nevada City, California.
Today we—me, hubby Luke, doggie Mira—went Christmas tree hunting. Paid $10 online + some kind of tax to be able to head off into the Tahoe National Forest/ Yuba River Ranger District South in search of the mythical perfect tree, hopefully amidst a snowy mountain setting. Packed a lunch, saw, some rope, our snow boots, whiskey flask—one never knows. Went up I-80 as far as Cisco Grove, which is the south eastern edge of the this particular Yuba River Ranger District.
What little snow we found was ice, impossible to traverse. What trees there were…well, the perfect tree was just not there. Scraggly, no branches on one side, too small, too tall. Yet still, “Stop, stop stop!” I would say, somewhat imperatively yet at a whisper, and Luke—the pilot of the expedition—would, every time. And I would get out, and open the back door so Mira, my co-inspector, could get out too, and we’d inspect. One never knows. Yet every time, nada, no bananas (now there’s a fascinating old saying. From a great song too).
Nonetheless, we’re in the Sierras, in the forest, the very beginnings of the Yuba River running a hop skip and a jump over a steep rough slope away, and one could imagine there was no pandemic, and it was just a beautiful day on the second of December…which is the birthday of our oldest son, so a very special day to be out searching for the perfect Christmas tree. As the sun was shining warm amidst the not so perfect trees, we stopped and situated ourselves on the open back of our ’97 Nissan Pathfinder (Nessie, we call her), and ate our turkey sandwiches, split a mandarin orange, and decided to give up on finding the perfect tree in the snow.
And so, we headed back down I-80 to SR 20, then turned right and headed out Bowman Lakes Road for a few miles. Interesting landscape. But nary a tree able to hold an ornament. Unless we wanted to top a tree. Which is discouraged. Highly discouraged. So, back to 20, heading west, and then a left on…well, a dirt logging road that went off to the east. And there we finally found the tree. The perfect tree. Not too big, not too small, not too wide. Just right. I explained to the tree what was going to happen, and thanked it for being perfect. Then we cut it down, tied it on the top of Nessie, headed home. Trimmed the trunk, carried it into our living room, set it in a stand, filled it up with lots of water. Opened up a couple of bottles of our favorite local IPA we happened to have in the fridge, and got some lights strung up. It was a good day. A really good day.