News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Young Life hosts tree hunting expedition

All over town you can spot cars and trucks with trees strapped to the roof or truck bed, fresh from being hunted and cut in the woods. This has been a Sisters tradition for as long as there has been a Sisters — even before. By now folks know you need a $5 permit to harvest a tree on public lands. You can save as much as $170 against the current Lowe’s or Home Depot price for a

12-foot fir.

Trekking into the forest to find that perfect tree is a family affair with rewards greater than the tree itself. Young Life of Sisters has made it even easier with some added benefits. Last weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and this weekend (December 4 and 5) at the same time, the 80-year-old organization allows visitors to come to Kalamataca Ranch on McAllister Road, the first left past the entrance to Black Butte Ranch heading westbound.

Kalamataca is not a tree farm. It is, however, an 80-acre spread full of natural Christmas trees. Once your trophy is bagged, you are treated to hot cocoa and the chance to sit around a fire roasting marshmallows. There is also homemade chili with corn bread, including gluten-free options.

Young Life has made it impossibly easy. Even if you don’t have a saw or rope, they will supply it. They issue a no-charge permit in exchange for a simple waiver. The yellow-colored permit attaches to the tree as evidence that you didn’t poach it. They’ll even cut the tree for you and bring it back to the car park if navigating the terrain is a bit much. That’s a hard deal to pass up.

While there you can make your own greenery swags or centerpieces. At the craft table make a peanut butter or pinecone bird feeder.

What Young life really wants you to do is have fun, the old fashioned way.

There’s a good chance you’ve heard about Young Life, or at least the name. In over 100 countries the organization has interacted with two million lives. 348,000 kids are involved weekly in the founder’s mission to introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and help them grow in their faith.

They have multiple programs for middle (WyldLife) and high school (Young Life) students and teen moms. Best known are their summer camps. There is the week-long family camp at Trails West in Colorado and regionally, Washington Family Ranch in Antelope, Oregon. (For more information about Young Life programs in Sisters, call Shannon Miller at 206-356-0972.)

When The Nugget went to Kalamataca — whose name is derived from combining the initials of the owners, Kevin and Laurie Adams and their children Matt, Tiffany and Christopher — we were greeted by families from as far as Prineville, Powell Butte, and Bend. We trailed the Oak family — mom and dad, Rena and Johnny, Halle and Rylan, 12 and Cleo, 9.

They typified the many enthusiastic adventurers as we headed up the ridge in search of the prey. Just when the perfect specimen was thought to be discovered, another family member found an even better one and so it went until at last, there it was, bathed in sunlight. A 12-foot fir, exquisitely proportioned.

Felling the prize is a family effort, each taking turns with the saw and shouting in unison t-i-m-b-e-r as the beast toppled over; then came the real work, carrying it out and loaded. Mom was spared the carry part with everybody else pitching in.

“We bought a tree last year, the COVID thing,” Johnny said. “Never again,” was Rena’s input, both saying that the “… shared family experience of going into the woods cannot be found at a street corner lot.”

The Oaks imagined an hour ride home and all the talk of decorating the tree, stringing lights outside and being able to tell others of their tree hunting adventure.

Shannon Miller of the Young Life staff said, “This has never been about raising money. We are just so delighted that we can sponsor something that has such meaning to families, bringing them together in way they can remember all their lives.”

Laurie Adams told of how some families come as they cannot otherwise afford a tree, especially this year when prices are up substantially. Several factors are driving the trend including over-the-top sales last year during the first Christmas during the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues this year exacerbated by drought.

Experts said tree buyers should expect to pay between 10 percent and 30 percent more for both live and artificial trees this year, and also have a smaller selection to choose from.

Oregon is the nation’s top producer of Christmas trees, responsible for 31 percent of the U.S. harvest in 2020, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Growing the trees in the state is a $100 million industry.


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