Nation's Christmas Tree Plucked From Colorado The 70-foot spruce has left its home in White River National Forest and is heading by truck to Washington, D.C. Along the way, it will stop in 10 states. One of the drivers, Gerald Morris, is looking forward to the trip: "It's a great thing to be involved in such a project."
NPR logo

Nation's Christmas Tree Plucked From Colorado

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Nation's Christmas Tree Plucked From Colorado

Nation's Christmas Tree Plucked From Colorado

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


The Capitol Christmas tree has started its journey from the White River National Forest in Northwest Colorado to Washington, D.C. The tree will stop in 10 states before finding its new home on Capitol Hill. Aspen Public Radio's Luke Runyon was in the forest yesterday and he watched the tree come down.

LUKE RUNYON, BYLINE: The task of finding this year's Capitol Christmas tree was left largely up to this guy.

SCOTT FITZWILLIAMS: I'm Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor of the White River National Forest.

RUNYON: We're standing next to a dark green spruce. It towers over us at more than 70 feet. In picking the tree, the folks at the Capitol asked Fitzwilliams to follow a few guidelines.

FITZWILLIAMS: It has to be the right size. You know, it can't be too tall, too big. And what they look for is the fullness. So it looks like a giant version of the Christmas tree you have in your house.

RUNYON: The tradition began in the 1970s. The Federal government chooses a particular National Forest, then the forest supervisor picks a few candidate trees. The final selection is then cut down and hauled to Washington, D.C.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Hammering nails into the Capitol Christmas tree.

RUNYON: By mid-morning, crew members crowd around the trunk, prepping it for departure. Then, the chainsaw.


RUNYON: Sawdust starts to pile up on the forest floor. The undeniable smell of fresh cut spruce fills the air. The workers don't let it fall over. That would damage the boughs. When the chainsaw stops, they lower a crane into position.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Ready. I'm coming down that front side.

RUNYON: I'm standing at the base of the tree and they're just about to hoist it over this small cabin and place it onto a flatbed truck. There's a man who has climbed into the tree wearing a fluorescent vest and he's trying to get this sling to go around the tree so they can lift it up.

The crowd here is electric. Most are from the nearby town of Meeker. When the tree begins to rise, cameras capture the moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: I didn't make it over (unintelligible).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Oh, there is goes.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: There it goes.


RUNYON: The crane gently lowers the tree onto a truck - the same truck that will take it across the country. One of the drivers is nearby resident Gerald Morris.

GERALD MORRIS: It's a great day, isn't it?

RUNYON: When he found out the tree was coming from the White River National Forest, he decided to put his commercial driver's license to use.

MORRIS: It's a great thing to be involved in such a project. And everybody gets to see something they'll probably never see again.

RUNYON: The tree's scheduled to be lit the first week of December.

For NPR News, I'm Luke Runyon in Aspen, Colorado.


SIMON: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.