I've been thinking, and I've decided that when we're looking for an adventure, we're generally looking for a bit of a physical challenge, a bit of fear, and a bit of fun, mixed nicely.
Getting our Christmas tree was, Mr. Right was determined, going to be an adventure. Did you know you can hunt Christmas trees in the National Forests of the Northwest? You can. Less than an hour from Seattle, stop at the Ranger Station and pay $10 for a permit and drive off into the forest with a saw and rope. Or, pay $20 for a permit because you want a tree more than 12 feet tall (but, seriously, a 12 foot tree for $10! I'm still in shock) and $10 for a regular permit because the kids have always wanted their own very little tree and you're still spending less than half what a tree usually ends up costing.
You do have to drive a bit up whichever mountain you choose, because down low the trees are so moss covered that they would be making a very particular statement as a Christmas tree. Up a little bit, they have just a touch of lichen, which is lovely.
And, there are trees right by the side of the road. But driving 40 minutes to stop by the side of the road, hack down a tree, and drive back home is not an adventure. No, to be sure you will have an adventure, you'd better climb somewhere.
Like, sideways up the first slushy snow-dappled hill/cliff you see. Yes, that will do nicely.
But be careful, because if you misjudge the amount of slushiness (and, thus, slipperiness) or the integrity of the hillside itself (and, thus, the trustworthiness of the rocks you will be depending on), you might find yourself in more of an adventure than you intended.
If you're lucky, your younger child will still be almost small enough to carry with one arm and you will manage not to take a major fall while crossing the last difficult face of the slump, your older child will be nimble and in an adventurous mood and too young to really fear how likely he is to slip or how painful that could be, and your wife will manage not quite to cry at that last frightening bit, as she clings to two rocks of dubious attachment to the hill, feeling her hands getting colder and colder as she hesitates, imagining very clearly what it would be like to slide right down that heap of slush and rocks and lie there, covered in bruises and likely at least a broken bone, until someone could rescue her... Yes, you will be lucky if she can squash that rising sense of panic and suck in the tears and make the last few hand- and footholds to haul herself up to the steadier ground.
Up there, we found a dry rock, sheltered by a larger tree, and I settled down with a child on each knee, because their bottoms were cold. (Major oversight: we did not wear waterproof pants. Major strike in our favor: I had cut the arms off two old felted sweaters that morning and put them on the kids legs under their jeans. They thanked me. Seriously.)
From there, we watched Daddy cut down the tree.
Or, we watched Daddy start to cut down the tree. And then it got to the point where I feared remaining up there with the kids any longer, since they were complaining of hunger, thirst, cold, and sleepiness. (Major oversight: stepping away from the car with only an unwanted granola bar and no drinks.) Going down we found a much better way than we had up, although Shmoogie cried whenever she couldn't ride in my lap and complained bitterly about her "itchy" (i.e. half-frozen) bottom.
At the risk of making this all seem a little less exciting, I will now reveal that we had been in sight of the road the whole time. So we were soon back in the car, testing the heated seats and watching for Daddy up on the hill.
Daddy had quite the struggle dislodging the tree from surrounding brush to finally slide it over the steep side of the hill (the side we had come up). And then, although we could drag it the few feet to the road, we couldn't really lift it onto the roof of the car. All around us, families were cutting nice wispy little six foot trees, tossing them lightly on a shoulder and bounding toward their cars. But that's ok, because we were having an adventure!
Weren't we glad when we got home to discover that our ceiling is a good three or four feet shorter than we thought, so cutting off that insanely heavy lower four feet so we could actually get it on the car was no loss at all.
Wouldn't we have felt stupid if we'd spent an hour trying to get that behemoth onto the car, only to have to cut off four feet when we got home?
It is a really lovely tree. It was a really big adventure.
My rock-clinging muscles (they might be my pecs?) were sore for days, which made hanging the lights even more fun than usual. Or was that the fact that we had to drag the tree over to the circular staircase to even reach the top third? (It took us hours to even come up with that idea, brilliant as we are. For a while we just sat around looking at the tree and looking at each other and despondently googling ladders for sale and rent.)