The tradition of families heading to the woods to cut down Christmas trees remains alive and well in Arizona as 40 percent of the permits for harvesting the holiday fixtures have been sold already at six national forests in the state.
The permit sale began last week at most of the forests. It has led to lines at some locations, and the Coconino and Prescott national forests sold out within just a few days. In all, more than 5,100 of the 12,700 permits available in Arizona have been sold.
"There were some people lined up before the office opened -- kind of a Black Friday thing. We had a good smile about that," said Pete Gordon, the Prescott forest's fire chief. The forest opened its offices in Yavapai
County last weekend to accommodate people who couldn't come during the work week.
Brady Smith, a spokesman for the Coconino National Forest, attributed some of this year's sales to people driving up from metro Phoenix. "People want to carry on that tradition with their families," Smith said.
Those who get permits often turn the tree-cutting process into an all-day family adventure.
They use maps to find designated cutting areas, hike through the woods in search of the right cone-shaped tree, cut it down with saws and haul it back to their vehicles to take home. Trees cannot be more than 10 feet tall.
The Kaibab, Coronado and Apache Sitgreaves forests aren't expected to run out of permits. The Tonto forest plans to open its ranger office in Payson on Saturday and may do so again on Dec. 10 if there are remaining permits.
Permits cost between $10 and $15, depending on the forest. Children participating in the federal government's "Every Kid in a Park" program, which provides opportunities for children to experience national parks, are eligible for a free Christmas tree permit.
People can buy permits by going to certain forest offices or sending in applications through the postal service.