F
or $10 in New Mexico, you can cut down your own Christmas tree.

Not anywhere, of course. There’s usually something of a drive involved. There are some additional rules printed out on the map the Forest Service provides you, like don’t get crazy and cut down some 11 foot tree. Anything over 10 feet costs you a buck a foot and allow me to stage a pre-emptive intervention right now and say, ‘where do you think you’re going to put that 15-foot monster, anyway?’

The state of New Mexico also respectfully requests that you refrain from cutting down your Christmas tree until you’re 300 feet or more away from a paved road. This is to keep things pretty for the looky-loos–also to guard against The Lazy Scourge who spot the ideal tree in the parking lot of the Walatowa Vistor Center, like me.

Your perfect tree? It’s probably out there in those woods somewhere. New Mexico can produces its fair share of firs and pinons, so it stands to reason that their wild cousins are clustered together in picturesque, uniformly-10-foot stands.

With the children, though, we prefer to unpack our snacks and imaginations, finding a tree that is just Christmas-y enough, and then wading into the cold river for as long as our feet can take it.