Each year that we’ve lived in Colorado, aside from maybe the first year (we were dead broke) and last year (we ran out of time, but it was ok because I almost saw Todd Helton), we’ve set out for the mountains to cut down our own Christmas tree.

For those of you who live in other spots, it’s a great program (one of a few great programs, in fact). Buy a permit for $10, hike into a huge designated area, cut a tree, and help the US Forest Service cull out smaller trees in order to curb out-of-control forest fires. And it is an event for which to plan.

For starters, you must stop off at Johnson’s Corner, the diner along the highway, and have some breakfast.

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You must also starve your children first, so that you get great faces like this.

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He nearly starved to death. It was harrowing, truly.

The other one was plenty entertained by their Christmas tree.

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It was nose-pickin’ good.

Finally, I wrestled some goodness out of my middle stinkpot child.

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The little one is a-ok, usually, with a pile of crayons. He studies his papers like he’s strategizing a chess move.

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Once our bellies were warmed and filled, we started on the second, longer leg of our journey. This year’s was truly epic, because once we drove all the way to the entrance of the tree cutting area, the rangers there let us know that there would be a bit of a wait – there were a couple of sideways cars up ahead.

Surprisingly, the boys did awesomely well on their hour-long wait. We had a map in hand from the ranger, which showed exactly which way to go (down Smokey the Bear Lane, as it were), to find, well, Smokey the Bear. And after quite a bit of covering up and bundling, we stood in a short line to meet him.

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The little man was not so sure. He watched like a hawk while Smokey and I hugged like old friends, and then he spent a couple of minutes sizing him up.

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And then the winds changed and I fell to the ground from smoke inhalation. Ironic.

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Just kidding.

Sort of.

Oh look. Here are Christmases Past.


Holden, Mommy, Smoky, & Daddy. 2007

2008 and seven months pregnant with the little dude.

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That’s an awesome sepia picture. Wowza.

2009 and really, really happy with a 4yo and a 9-month-old. Ha.

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2010 we spent in Home Depot picking our a tree as a last ditch effort, so no fun pic.

But this year? We nailed it with a 2yo, a Daddy, a Smokey, me, and a 6yo.

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It was finally time, and the search began.

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It only took us about 97 hours to trek in because there were lots of snow games.

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Not much makes him as happy as winter and snow.

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She shares the sentiment.

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Daddy sherpa.

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It was beautiful. Truly. It snowed a little. It was a bit overcast. But no biting wind and just the right amount of cold in relation to the layers we had on.

And then we found it. The just-right-Charlie-Brown-tree for us.

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He’s just plain weird.

He’s also just plain big enough to do this, now.

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On his own.

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But also with a little help.

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More to come on the final product. This is just a big ol’ stinkin’ banner year of fun with these boys.

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The boys were nearly popsicles by the time we hiked out, but Hank was the awesome Dad and brought the yummiest, most delicious peppermint hot chocolate that we’d ever tasted.

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Somehow we came out of the woods with Jabba the Hut. Not sure were we picked him up…

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And the super bonus? The 6yo took a pic of the ‘rents. Look out, people. He’s got talent.

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