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Capitol Christmas Tree Viewing

December 17th, 2018 by dk

You probably missed your chance to see this year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas tree. If you happened to be shopping at the Gateway Mall last Saturday afternoon, it was parked outside Cabela’s Sporting Goods.

It must have been quite a sight. The 80-foot noble fir could be viewed through large plastic windows on the tractor trailer, before beginning its trek to Washington, D.C. The tree will make a couple dozen stops, giving curiosity-seekers the opportunity to see a tree that weighs roughly four tons. The tree is accompanied by a banner that will be collecting signatures along the way.

The tree will light up the Capitol lawn for about a month, beginning Dec. 5. Its ornaments will have an Oregon Trail theme, marking the trail’s 175th anniversary and also the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act. (If you never knew there was an Act to our nation’s trails, much less a System, join the club. That tidbit was news to me.)

Most of the country needs an excuse to celebrate a tree, and these anniversaries provide it. Oregonians are perfectly happy celebrating the tree itself. What else do you know that grows 80 feet tall and amasses 8,300 pounds in 35 years? Just because it happens all the time and all around us doesn’t make it any less awesome.

Where but in Oregon would residents prepare for a major track tournament by planting giant sequoia saplings? They won’t look like much when the world’s track stars arrive in three years, but that’s OK. Our perspective on such things differs from most of our fellow citizens.

If you’re itching to see a noble fir through plastic windows, start driving east. The ceremonial tree is due in Soda Springs, Idaho later today. You could make that trip in 12 hours, if you really wanted to. By this time next week, our tree should be arriving in Ohio, after stops in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri.

Or you could pull on your hiking boots and head to the Willamette National Forest. Tilt your head 90 degrees and that is what parade viewers in Scottsbluff, Neb. will be seeing this Sunday. (You’ll have to supply your own plastic window.)

Root around the forest outside Sweet Home and you might come across this year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas tree stump. You’ll certainly encounter thousands of that tree’s siblings — each as healthy as the chosen one, and many too tall to fit on a tractor trailer.

Pay a $5 permit fee, and you can cut down whichever tree becomes your favorite and take it on its own ceremonial tour, ending in your living room. Even better, take along a fourth-grader. They can get the same permit for free this year, as part of the U.S. Forest Service’s Every Kid in a Park initiative.

Just keep in mind that the signature-gathering banner and the plastic windows are not part of the tree’s original design, which remains on display nearby for all Oregonians.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at Details about Every Kid in a Park are available at

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