The year was 2021. We had just finished watching Christmas Vacation, starring Wally Griswold and family. We were inspired, we lived in Idaho, and it was something we’ve always wanted to do — cut down our own Christmas tree. We had seen others do it, and were determined to start a new tradition. Some friends of mine had just cut down their tree up near Horseshoe Bend, off Harris Creek Road. So I downloaded a map, read the rules and started planning.
First, we needed a permit to take from the Boise National Forrest. I got mine at www.recreation.gov/tree-permits. Where else, right? They were TEN BUCKS… each. Then I went to the Forest Service website and grabbed a map of exactly where I was permitted to cut from. My friends got their tree in Horseshoe Bend off Harris Creek Road. So I jumped on Google Maps and took a drive (on my computer) down Harris Creek. The road looked paved, most of the way, then it turned to dirt, but looked like it was driveable. So the next question was the weather. It had recently snowed, so we weren’t sure how it would look until we got there.
When we purchased the permit, we were told that we had to cut a tree in the Boise National Forest. So I went to avenzamaps.com and downloaded the Avenza app (free). This is a GPS powered app that maintains your location even when there isn’t service. It shows your location over a downloaded map that you can get from Avenza’s website. So I downloaded the app, then searched for the Boise National Forest Weather map (free) and downloaded it. When I was on Harris Creek Road, I opened the app, then opened the map I downloaded, and it lined right up with where I was currently according to the GPS coordinates. 👍
The map that I downloaded also showed me the border for the Boise National Forest, so I knew where I was when I could start looking for trees to cut down!
To prepare for the trip, we brought plenty of winter wear (beanies, gloves, scarves, extra clothes and hand warmers), rope for the tree, a chainsaw (just in case), and an axe (which we ended up using). We also brought walkie-talkies, snacks and plenty of water.
We drove 45 minutes up the 55 to Horseshoe Bend, then got to Harris Creek. The roads were dry, so we made our way east on Harris Creek. It was a beautiful drive, past some great homes and ranches in Horseshoe Bend. We drove about 10 miles before we hit the border of the forest, where we could start looking for trees to cut. There were a few rules, like no trees over 12 feet, no “topping” trees (cutting the tops of a larger tree and leaving the bottom part of the trunk and root), and ten dollars per tree.
There were so many trees to choose from, but a lot of them looked good from far away, but were blemished as we got closer. A lot were also on the other side of Harris Creek, which made it extremely difficult to cross. And some were up a cliff or a very steep hill, making it out of reach.
We started looking for a tree around 12:00. It started snowing, which was amazing!! Not too much, but just enough to enjoy! It was 26˚, but we were well prepared for the weather. We drove about 10 miles up the road, slowly, stopping many times to get out and look at the trees. When we got about 20 miles in, the road started to get icy and a lady coming west from Idaho City told us that it got icier where she came from. At this point, we were only ten miles form Idaho City! A great little city that we have been to many times that we love! But with a 2WD Expedition, we didn’t feel good about continuing, so took the local yokel’s advice and turned around. On the way back, Kate and Owen walked a lot of the way, stopping here and there to look at trees.
We spent about 4 hours on Harris Creek Road. Owen found a smaller tree (4.5 footer) that he liked, so we cut down that one for the downstairs. Then we all agreed on a 12 footer and us boys took turns chopping that one down. It’s a light, thin country-style tree with a beautiful green that we all fell in love with. We chopped it down and it was so light that Kate carried the 12 foot tree down the hill (about 200 feet) and we tied it on the truck.
We finished the night with dinner at Red Robin and spent all the money we saved by cutting down our own tree, on delicious burgers and some amazing fries! It was a great experience. We had fun and enjoyed each other and everything that God has given us! Let me know if you have any questions!
And here’s our Plaster Family Christmas tree movie.