Alaskan spruce felled, begins journey to D.C. as Capitol Christmas tree

Capitol Christmas treeBy Lynn R. Mitchell

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well, at least preparations for “The People’s Tree” are underway as Alaskans donate a 74-foot Lutz spruce — a cross between a Sitka and white spruce — that was cut down Tuesday (see 2015 US Capitol Christmas tree cut down near Seward):

The 2015 U.S. Capitol Christmas tree was felled Tuesday afternoon on the outskirts of this Southcentral Alaska harbor community, the first step of a 6,000-mile journey that will eventually take it to the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C.

The 74-foot Lutz spruce cut Tuesday, a hybrid between a Sitka and white spruce, hails from the Chugach National Forest, the country’s most northern and western national forest. On Tuesday morning the 90-year-old tree stood about 300 feet off the Seward Highway. The surrounding area was cleared and filled in with dirt in order to support two cranes that secured the spruce estimated to weigh about 7,500 pounds.

The spruce was found by Amanda Villwock, Natural Resources Specialist with the Chugach National Forest, who said she began searching for the “perfect” tree last October.

“The tree symbolizes more than just the tree itself, you know, especially coming from Alaska,” Villwock said. “We’re taking pride in our state and sharing that with the entire country,” she said.

It’s the first time the Capitol Christmas tree has come from Alaska. A 6,000-mile journey faces the tree as it begins to make its way toward the East Coast — but first there are opportunities to view it before it leaves Alaska. It was on display in Seward last night:

The tree will be on display during a Seward community celebration at the Alaska SeaLife Center from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, after which the spruce will be boxed up.

On Oct. 30, the tree will stop at Moose Pass Trail Lake Lodge from 10 to 11 a.m., and then in Anchorage at Cabela’s from 5 to 8 p.m. On Oct. 31, the tree will be in downtown Anchorage from noon to 4 p.m. at the Trick or Treat Street event.

The tree will then be shipped from the Port of Anchorage to Seattle. It will be trucked across the United States, with community events planned along the way. Between sea and land, the entire journey is about 6,000 miles, said Chris Lampshire, Chugach patrol captain.

Villwock and others will join the spruce for the journey in Seattle. Villwock will ensure that a 60-gallon water bladder stays full and the tree remains in good health before it arrives at Joint Base Andrews, just outside Washington, D.C., by Nov. 18. Then at 4 a.m. Nov. 20, it’ll be moved via convoy to the Capitol.

A collaboration of many sponsors make the tree’s transport possible (see Alaska Christmas tree is about to head to the US Capitol, with lots of corporate support).

Follow the tree’s journey with help from the Track the Tree website. This year the journey is particularly interesting since it is the longest distance ever, beginning in Alaska and moving toward the Lower 48 by ship, then across the country to the East Coast with stops along the way:

The tree, ferried by Lynden Transport driver John Schank, will make stops in Seward and Anchorage before it hops on a ship to Seattle. From there, the tree will stop in Missoula, Montana; Rapid City, South Dakota; South Bend, Indiana; Findlay, Ohio; Chillicothe, Ohio; and Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

Schank, who traditionally delivers oil industry supplies, was chosen for his 37-year accident-free driving record — a feat for someone who typically runs the route between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay twice a week.

The tree needs to be at Joint Base Andrews, just outside Washington, D.C., by Nov. 18, Ward said. Then at 4 a.m. Nov. 20, it’ll be moved, via convoy, to the Capitol.

 

Progress of the tree can also be followed on Twitter @TracktheTree and on Facebook.

 

 

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