The San Juan Mountains are chock-full of trees. So many, in fact, that the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has to cut some down to help prevent potential wildfires.
Now, as the holiday season approaches, the railway is enlisting the help of its riders to reduce fire risk – giving residents a chance to cut down a tree for the holiday season.
D&SNG is offering trips to the high country for residents to pick out, cut down and bring home a tree from the mountains for the holiday season. The train has been making the opportunity available for the past four years, said Christian Robbins, spokesman for the D&SNG.
Robbins said the service began with a question that sprang to mind: Why don’t people go to the San Juan Mountains for holiday trees anymore? He did it when he was a kid, but not many people have continued the tradition.
And the trees need to be cut down anyway, so why not put them to good use, he said.
Robbins took some time the next summer in Cascade Canyon to look at the trees that need to be cut down. They’re all short trees, the ones that burn most in wildfires. Those trees also make for perfect indoor decorations. The D&SNG makes a trip through Cascade Canyon anyway, so why not bring people there to cut down trees for the holidays, Robbins said.
And the Christmas Tree Train was born. It operates six days each year – the weekend of Thanksgiving and the first two weekends in December. This weekend is the last weekend the service is offered.
“We’ve had people that never cut down a Christmas tree in the forest,” Robbins said. “It’s amazing how far people come.”
Residents interested in cutting their own tree from the San Juans can catch a train this weekend; it leaves the station at 9:45 a.m.
Patrons interested must purchase a train ticket for $69 and a tree permit for $8. But there are a limited number of permits to cut trees on each train – just 30 permits are available on each trip.
Anyone interested is encouraged to make a reservation with the train and ask for a tree permit.