There is something to be said for the mess-free, hassle-free, one-time-payment-only, consistent look of an artificial Christmas tree and as you get a few years under your belt, it might be the best way to go.

BUT, when you are younger or have young kids, then there is little that can compare to the fun, anticipation, and excitement of heading off to the woods to find the perfect tree. Figure in some sledding or an inner tube, maybe a bonfire, some marshmallows, hot chocolate, (Schnapps?) the smell of pine needles, the relentless tacky stickiness of tree sap.  And don't forget lots of laughter and maybe a snowball fight or a snowman depending on the weather.

The experience of getting a real tree wins, hand down!

PERMITS ARE AVILABLE NOW

And while it seems a bit early today to get after it, it's not too early to get your forest service permit. Starting now Christmas tree permits are on sale for $5 (if purchased online there is an additional $2.50 charged for the transaction fee) Permits may be purchased online through www.Recreation.gov, in person at three Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest offices, and from local vendors.

Each tree permit allows a family to cut one tree, with a tree height limit of 15 feet, or dig a small live transplant tree. Permits are limited to two permits per household. The permits are non-refundable and are only good on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Christmas trees cannot be harvested in Wilderness areas, campgrounds, developed recreation areas, or tree plantations.

WHERE TO GO TO GET GOING!

Permits are only available in person from the Cle Elum, Methow Valley, and Naches Ranger District offices; permits may be ordered over the phone from all Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest offices.

Naches Ranger District (permits sold through the office window in the front foyer); 10237 Highway 12, Naches, WA 98937; (509) 653-1401; Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday ONLY 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. (closed for lunch 12 – 12:30)

LET'S BE CAREFUL OUT THERE

If you plan to go, high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles are recommended for driving on national forest roads during the winter months. Check weather and road conditions before traveling and leave early in the day to allow for maximum daylight. Dress for the weather, bring a map and emergency supplies in your vehicle, a rope and tarp to move and protect your tree during the drive home, and tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return home. Remember, your cell phone may not work as there are many areas in the national forest where there is little or no cell phone service.

Now, go have some family fun and let us at KIT be the first to wish you a Merry Christmas!

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