The thrill of the hunt

For some it's tradition, for others it's just a way to get out of the house and into the great outdoors. Whatever the reason, Christmas tree hunting is an annual rite of passage that runs deep in our adventurous, pioneering blood. Fortunately, there are thousands of acres of national forest surrounding Durango, offering a plethora of tree-finding options. For only $8, folks can secure a San Juan National Forest permit (available at the San Juan Public Lands Center or Kroeger's Ace Hardware) and go out and lay claim to their yuletide pleasure. The permit even comes with a brochure telling where, what and how to cut. But be forewarned: the hardest part comes after the hunt, when it’s time to strap the tree to the car. Don’t forget the rope.

Roomie with a handsaw prepping the spruce.
Protruding tree ready for the trek home.

Tools of the trade: don't leave home without them.

The final push up the hill, to the parking lot and home for a well-deserved beer.
Scouting in the San Juan National Forest.
Towering pines: pretty to look at but on the no-cut list.