SWEET HOME TO DC: 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree rolls out on tour

A reenactor representing Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the Forest Services, poses with U.S. Airmen during a 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree whistle-stop event Nov. 10, 2018.

Sweet Home to DC: The 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree journey

A Modern Day Adventure on the Historic Oregon Trail

Each year, a National Forest provides a Christmas Tree for display on the U.S. Capitol lawn in Washington D.C. This year’s tree is travelling from the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District, in central Oregon. District Ranger Nikki Swanson is recording her notes from the journey for the Your Northwest Forests blog. To read the previous entries, visit: https://yournorthwestforests.org/category/capitol-christmas-tree/.


November 10th, 2018
Albany, Ore.

Thankful for family, friends & veterans

Today we left home. The packing and the year of preparation is complete and it is time to leave family and friends and to take the first steps away from all we know, to venture into the great unknown. It was also a day to be thankful for the veterans who have made this country free so that we can travel as we wish. This freedom does not exist everwhere.

Our stop at the Cabellas store in Springfield, Ore. was like a giant farewell party. My family and friends who had not made it to the Sweet Home event came to wish me well.

I realized at this moment how much I am going miss all of my family and friends over the next month. It was just a small taste of what the Oregon Trail pioneers felt when they left their friends and extended family members behind – the pioneers were going to be gone for a much longer period of time than me. Many pioneers said “goodbye” knowing they might never see their families and friends again.

Cabellas was so festive!  There was music, hot chocolate, Smokey Bear and there were even LIVE reindeer! There was such a spirit of joy in the air as people picked their favorite spot to sign the banners on the side of the truck.

My friend’s son summed up the mood of the event perfectly: “Of all 50 states, that Oregon was chosen to deliver the Capitol Christmas tree ALL the way to D.C.? That is amazing.” I agree.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree also visited the Albany Veteran’s Day Parade, the largest Veteran’s Day Parade this side of the Mississippi. It was such an honor to be at this event.  There are so many veterans in my life and I am thankful every day for their service to our great country.  Not every country has the freedoms that the United States of America enjoys. When I was 17, I traveled to Canton, China as part of an international sports exchange to run a cross country race.

The funny thing is, I don’t remember the race at all. What I remember is seeing the poverty, and being surprised at the lack of freedom that we had. We could only visit the places the government gave us permission to visit. We could not go to just any jade factory, we had to go to the one they directed us to.

In America, visitors can move freely. I had always heard from my Dad that I should be thankful to be an American, I did not realize just how true that was until I visited another country. I came back proud to be an American, and thankful for all of our veterans and the price they paid for our freedom.

The service members and veterans, Civil Air Patrol cadets, and parade-watchers had a great time signing the tree banner, learning more about the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, and having their photos taken with Smokey Bear.  It was our second day officially “on the trail” with the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree, and it was a very good one.

Nikki Swanson
District Ranger, Sweet Home Ranger District
Willamette National Forest

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