SWEET HOME TO DC: 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree visits Oregon capital

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signs the banner hanging on the side of the trailer carrying the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree

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 previous entries, visit https://yournorthwestforests.org/category/capitol-christmas-tree/.

For more information, visit the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree website, www.capitolchristmastree.com, and story map: https://arcg.is/10DOyv

Track the tree! Follow the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree on its Return to the Oregon Trail journey in near real-time, at www.trackthetree.com


November 13th, 2018
Oregon City, Ore.

The 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree arrives at the Return to the Oregon Trail tour whistle stop event in Salem, Ore.

The 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree arrives at the Return to the Oregon Trail tour whistle stop event in Salem, Ore. Nov. 13, 2018. The tree is travelling cross-country on a route dubbed “Return to the Oregon Trail” to deliver the tree, harvested from the Willamette National Forest in central Oregon, to the U.S. Capitol on behalf of the state. USDA Forest Service photo.

Travelling the Willamette Valley

Today we made two important stops on our journey, the State Capitol in Bend, Ore. and the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Oregon City.

The State Capitol event was amazing.  The tree pulled up right in front of the Capitol building and the gold Oregon Pioneer statue stood proudly above us like a sentinel shining in the sunlight against a blue sky.

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The golden Oregon Pioneer statue stands as a testament to the spirit of early trail-goers at the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree whistle stop event in Salem, Ore. Nov. 13, 2018. The tree is travelling cross-country on a route dubbed “Return to the Oregon Trail” to deliver the tree, harvested from the Willamette National Forest in central Oregon, to the U.S. Capitol on behalf of the state. USDA Forest Service photo.

Granite monuments of Oregon Pioneers on either side of the Capitol building reminded all in attendance about the spirit of the Oregonians and our love for freedom and adventure and making a better life.

Speakers including Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown spoke about what this tree meant to them and to the entire State of Oregon.

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From left, Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, Gov. Kate Brown, and Senate President Peter Courtney pose with a smaller tree during the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree. The tree is travelling cross-country on a route dubbed “Return to the Oregon Trail” to deliver the tree, harvested from the Willamette National Forest in central Oregon, to the U.S. Capitol on behalf of the state. USDA Forest Service photo.

It was touching to hear how moved they each were about the honor of having the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree come from Oregon.

Brigette Harrington was on hand to read her amazing poem once more.

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Brigette Harrington, winner of the State of Oregon 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree essay contest, delivers remarks as the tree, harvested from Willamette National Forest and travelling to the U.S. Capitol for the holiday season,, at a tree tour whistlestop event in Salem, Oregon Nov. 13, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo.

After the speeches, a smaller companion tree, also from the Willamette National Forest, was presented to the Capitol.  This sister tree will be lit on November 27th at a special celebration. Next, pictures were taken to capture this exciting event for memories in years to come.

My favorite moment was when Smokey accidentally photo bombed the photo of Gov. Brown and Brigette.

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Oh Smokey…. Always wanting in on the fun.

Our second stop of the day was at the End of the Oregon Trail Museum in Oregon City.  This stop put our entire journey into perspective.  There was a very large map that showed the route we are taking across the country as we follow the Oregon Trail in reverse.

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Members of the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree team point to places they look forward to visiting along the Oregon Trail as they travel cross-country with the tree on a route dubbed “Return to the Oregon Trail.” The tree was harvested from the Willamette National Forest in central Oregon and will be delivered to the U.S. Capitol on behalf of the state and the Forest Service to light the Capitol Lawn during the holiday season. USDA Forest Service photo.

My favorite photo of the day was of our team pointing to their favorite part of the Oregon Trail, because we are actually going to see those favorite places.

I have wanted to journey on the Oregon Trail ever since I first learned about it in the 4th grade.  I never dreamed I would be taking a 70-foot long tree with me on my adventure… but here we go and this stop made it all seem so real.

It’s really happening!

Several of our team members were not as obsessed with the Oregon Trail as I, and thus did not have the same context for the trail we are about to take.

The Interpretive Center provided that context through some amazing videos and we all left excited and a bit daunted about what was to come.

The Interpretive Center put on a lovely event with live entertainment consisting of an older couple in period dress.  The wife played the dulcimer and the husband played the bass and it was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.

There was hot chocolate and free posters from Travel Oregon encouraging people to find their trail and there was joy, so much joy.

What a lovely way to end the day and to begin our journey on the Oregon Trail at the end of the Oregon Trail.

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

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