Find your perfect Christmas tree in Vermont’s National Forest

Christmas D1 Cover

It’s an image straight from Currier and Ives: a snowy New England landscape, crisscrossed by gray stone walls, with a covered bridge spanning a river in the distance. In the foreground, a bearded man in a red plaid jacket drags a freshly cut Christmas tree toward a yellow farmhouse while the winter sun sets behind the hills. It’s the dream of Vermont at Christmas.

Only it’s not a dream. A yellow farmhouse just like that stands just down the road from here in a field quilted by stone walls. There are several covered bridges nearby and they’re all still in service. And you really can go into the woods and cut a tree for free. Or nearly free; the fee to cut a Christmas tree in Vermont’s National Forest is a modest five dollars.

Many Decembers ago, as kids, our dad brought us to the national forest near our home to find the perfect Christmas tree. It was a beautiful sunny winter day with the sun sparkling on the snow. Intending to make a day of it, our mom had packed us a “hunter’s lunch”—apples and cheddar cheese—and a thermos of cocoa. We crossed streams, looked for animal tracks, and stopped to listen to woodpeckers at work. Even with all that dawdling, it took less than two hours to find a tree, cut it, and bring it back to the car.

When we got it back home though, well…it wasn’t as impressive as we thought. You see, the shade in the deep woods makes for thin, spindly trees—nothing like the dense, hedge-like ones grown on farms. And though it looked small in the woods, it was too tall for our living room.

In the end, our dad compromised. He found a little two-acre farm that plants trees far apart but doesn’t shape them each year, and that’s where he found a dense tree that still looked satisfyingly shaggy. The branches of our wild tree were trimmed and shaped into a full and beautiful wreath, while the trunk became a Yule log. Still a pretty good deal for five dollars!

The Orton Family,
Gardner, Cabot, Eliot, Lyman