Monday, December 15, 2008

Stalking the Mighty Alaskan Spruce

Cutting a Christmas TreeAt Christmas every year there is the good news and the bad news: The good news is that we get to go out into the wilds of the Last Frontier to cut down our very own Alaskan Christmas tree. The bad news is that we're getting an Alaskan Christmas tree.

We're not known for the beauty of our trees, when tourists show up to rave about the scenery they'll usually leave out the embarrassing part about our trees being all mangy.

Which means that there's not really any danger of hordes of enthusiastic Christmas tree harvesters deforesting the hills around Anchorage. Our trees are an acquired taste I guess you'd say.

But ugly or not that's how we've got our trees every year since--oh gosh . . . 1949?? In fact to even suggest getting a store-bought tree or artificial tree would be blasphemy so last Monday we put the kids in the car for our annual Christmas tree hunt. Yes, they get to skip school. Report me, I dare you.

Cutting a Christmas TreeGood hunters require sustenance so we always go out to breakfast first though to call the meal we ate a mere "breakfast" is a bit of an understatement. When the waitress set our six meals in front of us they included a 17-pound omelet, 19 orders of hash browns, 42 pancakes, three dozen scrambled eggs, four pounds of bacon, a half-dozen quarts of orange juice, three loaves of bread and two pounds of butter. Oh, and two tiny little packets of jam. Give or take.

In fact when Andrew received his order of chicken fried steak--and here I should interrupt to say that he orders this item every single year, mostly in rebellion against the fact that I'd never let that much cholesterol in my kitchen at home. I think IHOP lists it on the menu as "myocardial infarction on a plate"--I made Andrew put his hand next to the plate just to give you the proper proportions for the vulgarity we're talking about. You notice that the pile of eggs and the slab o' meat are so big there wasn't any room for the hash browns which had to included on a plate of their own? And that didn't include the four pieces of toast.

Cutting a Christmas TreeThe funny part was that 20 minutes later it was all gone--EVERY BIT. Seriously, the only thing remaining was the crust of toast you see on David's plate and half a packet of strawberry jam.

Which kind of makes you wonder why they bothered to stop at that last half a packet--I mean if you've crammed the equivalent of three entire pigs worth of breakfast meat into your stomach why stop at that last quarter teaspoon of jam? Why not just go for broke because, shoot, you never know when that next meal will be.

I found the whole thing rather mesmerizing as I watched then put away the chow but in one of life's cruel ironies even though I only ate a third of my food and gave the rest up to them and their gluttony who got sick to their stomach in the car once we left? Well, I'd rather not say. But let's just say life really isn't fair sometimes.

Once on the road it was an 80s tune revival as we forced the kids to listen to quality music:

Turning Japanese I think I'm turning Japanese I really think so . . .
(ba da bump bump bump bump ba dum)

as we headed south along the inlet. By the time we'd made it through our crash course in Van Halen, Journey and Run DMC the kids really didn't care which tree we picked so long as they could get out of the car and away from our tunes.

Cutting a Christmas TreeHere you see Andrew collapsed by the side of the road trying to get the tree they'd cut over the snow berm and onto the car--apparently it was rather slippery and they had a hard time getting a foothold. At least that was his excuse, I rather suspect it was the gallon o' gravy sitting in his gut that was increasing the earth's gravitational pull on his stomach.

But at any rate, they found the tree while I was inside the car praying for death from whatever had attacked my intestines.

But at any rate we got a great tree--probably the best ever--with a nice shape and lots of gracefully full branches. In the Alaskan sense of the word. The only blemish was that it had two tops. At first glance we were disturbed at the mutation--who wants a tree with antennae?--but then we kind of grew to like it to the point that we said, "Who says a Christmas tree has to only have ONE top? Why not two? Two is still symmetrical and can be beautiful in its own way right?"

The hardest part was deciding which of the two tops got to wear the star. Hmmmm. . .

If you're in the area and would like to try this yourself, we went south for about an hour down just past Bertha Creek where it's legal to cut down an evergreen outside of the Chugach National Forest area. That means if you go down south towards Johnson Pass or Granite Creek/Bertha Creek then you can cut there. They like you to go back from the road a bit--say a 150 yards--and you can only get one but it's free and you don't need a permit.

Of course getting a monster breakfast big enough to feed half of South America? That's going to cost you extra.

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Technorati tags: holidays, gifts, Christmas

33 comments:

illahee said...

chicken fried steak?!? *drool*


(sorry, YES, that's all i got out of your post. *drool*)

Jeana said...

You know, of course, that if you ever move to Texas you will have to beg forgiveness for the blasphemy you just spoke of the greatness that is the Chicken Fried Steak. Andrew, of course, will be held in high honor. He will be given a belt buckle as big as that steak and people will lower their heads when they see him, in awe and respect.

Jolanthe @ No Ordinary Moments said...

that chicken fried steak is disturbingly huge.

Leigh said...

That whole day sounds like a RIOT!!!! I can't wait to introduce my kids to 80's music!

Omah's Helping Hands said...

I miss going out and looking for a tree to cut down. We have become citified. :( I'd rather have a not so perfect tree from Alaska than a fake tree. The closest we come to going out for a tree is our daughter still wants a real tree, so we go out to a lot and buy one.
At least your family still has that great outing! Sounds like you all have fun...well except for the intestines being loaded. LOL ;)

Laura Moffitt said...

Sorry that you got sick but I truly feel your pain as today I am in bed with a sick stomach. I am always the one to get sick anytime, ANYTIME we go out to eat. My husband thinks, depending on the day, that it's funny/annoying.

Paige said...

What a fun tradition! And that is one big breakfast, I tell you!

Outnumbered2to1 said...

Okay, now I know where Charlie Brown lives. I knew I recognized the tree in your picture. I'm kidding, I think your tree looks beautiful.

I kept my kids home from school so we could go sledding and make Christmas Cookies. I so would NOT be reporting you!

Inkling said...

I personally love your tree and can say that my husband would be jealous if he saw the picture.

It was our year to go hunt for one in the woods, but he wouldn't let us go into the mountains to get one since he was afraid I'd go into labor four weeks early. Bummer.

So we gathered our coins and a few dollars and went to the tree farm where we went last year and found their prices had practically doubled. Paying $50 or more for a dead tree seems like a bit much. (Plus then how would be afford chicken fried steak?) We inquired about the Charlie Brown section where we'd heard they stashed $15 trees, and came home with a gorgeous specimen Charlie would be proud of owning. It too has a second top kind of thing - sort of like a John Travolta staying alive pose. The only downsides are the sharp needles that could be used for sewing leather (we didn't discover that little issue until we got home and took off our mittens), and the multitude of tiny green bugs I had to vacuum up on the ceiling. I think they call it a Grand Fir or something. Personally, we think it is related to the cactus family, a disco dancing cactus family.

Rachel C. said...

That tree is definitely unique! But who wants the same thing every year right? And the fact that you go out as a family every year to get them makes each tree all the more special!

Heather said...

Two tops! You definitely have a unique tree. This one looks less gangly than last year's.

Lisa said...

We're from Anchorage and we usually go out to a moose browse in the Mat-Su Valley for our tree. There is something so wonderful about the drive, the hike, choosing "just" the right one, dragging it back to the van, etc. Instead of going out for breakfast, we end our day at the Lucky Wishbone or we find some good Mexican. This year we actually cut down a tree in our yard that had grown up in front of our veggie garden. It is a beautiful specimen, lots of room for ornaments.

jubilee said...

But the memories: priceless.

I think it's cool that you have a tradition like this. The Calm One just informed me that next year will be our "real" tree year. Now that we have our own house and won't be breaking any of those fuddy-duddy lease rules while in a rental.

Joy said...

You made me laugh so hard I coughed up cheerios all over my keyboard. "Gallon-a-gravy"? Andrew must be related to my idahoan uncles... who could give any texan a run for their money at the diner.

Melissa said...

I was thinking something about the tree was a little "off". Yes, it was the second top. Now that I know, it looks charming and not at all "off". :)

Randy and Ally said...

That is so funny. I remember one year Melanie came to visit my house for Thanksgiving, and the day after we went to a local farm to cut a tree (the Willamette valley is one of the world's largest exporters of Christmas trees) and I remember her commenting that the trees were a little too groomed and perfect looking . . . That is such a fun family tradition to go out in the forest though. Thanks for sharing!

Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas said...

If you think an Alaska tree is funky, try getting one from southern Nevada! Our Saturday played out much the same as yours, minus the snow. You'd also need to swap the Run DMC for a cover of War Pigs by Cake.

Ha!

cndymkr / jean said...

It's not bad enough that you have snow there but you let your kids cut school for the day??!! It's just not fair. And to add insult to injury you got to go to IHOP. I'm going to be very whiney for the rest of the day, I hope you're happy now.

bonobo said...

I think we're going to have to cut our own tree next year. The kids'll be 2.5 then, and would probably get a kick out of it. This year, no tree - two 18 month olds is enough without adding in the constant worry about tree scaling....

all over the map said...

hope your tummy recovered nicely. i love breakfast but those meals put me in a coma afterward.i've had my share of biggie breakkies. i guess the key is to eat a small portion. although i'm guessing andrew was having none of that. ha ha!

all over the map said...

and as I was so distracted with all that food I forgot to say that the whole cutting down your own tree experience is wonderful. given that an intestine-challenged mum isn't braving the aftermath of brekkie.
the tree is really nice and i like the double top. oh the smell of a real tree.

Mean Mommy said...

You didn't happen to stop by Toys R Us on the way home and puke on the floor next to one of the toilets did you? Because I stepped in it.

luckyzmom said...

My husband would have loved that meal also! Are they trying to kill themselves?

Rani said...

good greif...isn't that something Charlie Brown would say?

Jill in MA said...

OMG, this post gave me a great belly laugh! You are an awesome story-teller! (And I think your tree is beautiful!)

Flea said...

I love your two-headed monster! Er, tree. Put something else on its other head to keep it warm. Like an angel or a Santa. And get better!

Blessed said...

I like your tree! Our most interesting tree was the year we used a branch from a huge pine tree that blew down in our backyard when we lived in Louisiana - It's one we never forgot, but you sure could see all the ornaments good! :)

My Ice Cream Diary said...

LOVE the mutant tree. But I really think you need another star for the second top. Or maybe an angel.

Mimi said...

i always thought that song was "dirty japaneese-ah, dirty japaneese-ah, i don't think so." thanks for setting me straight....

Lis Garrett said...

LOL! Everything about this post had me rolling on the floor. ;-)

We cut down our own tree each year, too. I think it's a mandatory rule if you live anywhere north of Wichita, Kansas. But I don't think we've ever had an adventure quite like yours.

The breakfast?! Getting sick?! Two tree tops?! That's good stuff! (well, not the getting sick part)

Daisy said...

Yowza. IHOP. We go there a few times a year. That's more than enough for me. We ask every time, but they still haven't come up with a Braille menu for Amigo. Most national chains have one.

AlaneM said...

I love the kid torture by 80's music - the best decade lives on!!

Nicole said...

This is so fun! You've gotta see our Tree too.! We've got a Mighty Alaskan alright. I have yet to blog it..soon! lol!