Artificial or real?
According to the American Christmas Tree Association, 80 percent of us that put up Christmas trees will be artificial this year.
And if you opt for real the odds are you are going to drop by a big box retailer to select your tree, and not an independent tree lot with the traditional trappings such as a fire pit that went the way of the dodo bird in California due to air quality rules.
That said hardly anyone seems any more to bundle up the kids, pile the family in the station wagon — or should that be the SUV — and head to the hills in search of the perfect Christmas tree.
It’s an experience that’s worth doing at least once with your kids — or grandkids.
Selecting a Christmas tree in a fenced off area on a parking lot isn’t the same magic as running around a Christmas tree farm in the hills looking for “the perfect” tree.
Granted it is a Christmas tree farm so it isn’t like venturing out into the woods for a Currier & Ives moment. But there is a lot to be said about making a Christmas tree search a half day or a day-long family outing.
While independent Christmas tree lots around communities like Turlock and Manteca were once a dime a dozen, Christmas tree farms were more like a dollar a dozen.
But the shift to artificial trees and big box retailers didn’t just whittle down the independent tree lots but it also slashed the number of Christmas tree farms left in California. The last drought didn’t help things much.
There are still three Christmas tree farms nestled in the foothills of Tuolumne and Calaveras counties.
But if you head a little farther north to Apple Hill in El Dorado County, you can find six Christmas tree farms.
The area east of Placerville north of Highway 50 not only has a healthy sprinkling of Christmas tree farms but owners have expanded on the outdoor experience to make it even more of an adventure.
Apple Hill also has other options still open this time of year for everything from handcrafted chocolates and fresh apple cider and homemade pies to wine tasting rooms.
The following are five options — including a tree farm that has been judged one of the state’s best — where you can cut down your own Christmas memories based on information gleaned from their respective websites.
It is always best to call ahead, especially with the non-Apple Hill locations. An unanticipated closure could have you making a trip and coming up empty handed.
Given the variety of options plus six Christmas tree farms, Apple Hill is the best bet for a day excursion.
Bramble Hill Christmas Tree Farm
*LOCATION & CONTACT INFO: 12161 Cattle Drive Trail, Columbia, call 209-743-8154 or email email@example.com
*DIRECTIONS: Take Parrots Ferry Road into Columbia. Turn onto Jackson Street and go one short block and turn left at the stop sign. They are two miles out Italian Bar Road. You will be able to follow their signs.
*HOURS: Opens the day after Thanksgiving, Friday thru Sunday, Nov. 24-26 & Dec. 1-3 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
*TREE OPTIONS: Douglas Fir, White Fir, Nordman Fir, Myer Spruce, Scotch Pine, Sierra Redwood, Cedar, and others
Alto Tree Farm
*LOCATION & CONTACT INFO: 839 Spink Road, West Point, email Gregcooper108@gmail.com, 209-293-4936
*DIRECTIONS: From Jackson, Take Highway 88 east 15 miles to Highway 26 (Red Corral Road), to West Point Main Street. Turn right on Spink Road, two-tenths of a mile to farm. Follow signs to 839 Spink Road
*HOURS: Opens Saturday after Thanksgiving; 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays; noon to 4:30 p.m. Monday thru Friday.
*TREE OPTIONS: Douglas Fir, White Fir, Cedar, Redwood, Scotch Pine, White Fir, and Blue Spruce
*NOTES: You can enjoy a ride with Santa, trees over 10 feet available, picnic area, hay/wagon/tractor rides, free candy canes, free coffee, free garland/boughs, apple cider/refreshments
Anderson Christmas Tree Farm
LOCATION & CONTACT INFO: 1743 Mustang Road, Murphys, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site: andersontreefarm.net/Site/Christmas_tree_Farm.html 209-454-1349
For latest info check https://www.facebook.com/andersonchristmastreefarm/
*DIRECTIONS: Take Highway 4 to Pennsylvania Gulch Road. Travel about 1 mile on Pennsylvania Gulch Road then turn right on Skunk Ranch Road. Travel about one-quarter mile and turn left onto Mustang Road. The farm is about 300 yards up the hill on the left.
*HOURS: Opens the day after Thanksgiving then open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
*TREE OPTIONS: Douglas Fir, Scotch Pine. Cedar, Sequoia, and Fresh cut Noble Fir, Nordman and Grand Fir
*NOTES: Trees over 10 feet available, wreaths and garlands for sale, freshly cut trees of other species available, Christmas Gift Shop
EL DORADO COUNTY
Indian Rock Tree Farm
*LOCATION & CONTACT INFO: 3800 North Canyon Road, Camino, call 530-622-4087, email IndianRock@directcon.net or visit the web site at indianrocktreefarm.com
*DIRECTIONS: Take Highway 50 east to Camino exit, right on Carson Road, left on Larsen Drive. One mile, then left on North Canyon Road. At that point it is 1.6 miles to Indian Rock Tree Farm.
*HOURS: Opens day after Thanksgiving. Open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., closed Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, subject to weather and farm condition. Tickets are needed for Thanksgiving weekend only.
*TREE OPTIONS: Douglas Fir, White Fir, Silvertip, Incense Cedar, Spruce, and Exotic True Firs
*NOTES: Dogs on leashes welcome, trees over 10 ft. available, wreaths and garlands for sale, picnic area, free candy canes, maps and brochures available to callers, free garland/boughs, freshly cut trees of other species available, Christmas gift shop, school tours available by reservation, apple cider/refreshments
OTHER APPLE HILL OPTIONS
Apple Country Christmas Trees
*LOCATION & CONTACT INFO: 2721 Mace Road, Camino, call 530-644-2475, email email@example.com or visit the web site at indianrocktreefarm.com
*HOURS: Opens day after Thanksgiving until sold out. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Tuesdays
*NOTES: Also features apple barn, frozen pies, cider, walnuts, honey
Crystal Creek Tree Farm
*LOCATION & CONTACT INFO: 2019 Cable Road, Camino, call 530-417-6097, website is caminotrees.com
*HOURS: Open effective Saturday, Nov. 18, 9:30 a.m. to dusk. Closed Thanksgiving Day. Call after Nov. 26 to check on availability of trees.
*NOTES: Gifts, wreaths
*LOCATION & CONTACT INFO: 2019 Cable Road, Camino, call 530-417-6097
*HOURS: Open starting day after Thanksgiving thru Dec, 24 or when sold out. Daily hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hillside Tree Farm
*LOCATION & CONTACT INFO: 2881 North Canyon Road, Camino, call 530-621-2053, website is hillsidetreefarm.com
*HOURS: Opens day after Thanksgiving Fridays thru Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until sold out
*NOTES: Train rides
Madrone Tree Hill
*LOCATION & CONTACT INFO: 2600 Barkley Road, Camino, call 916-835-9600
*HOURS: Opens Dec. 1 then Dec. 2, 3, 9 and 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Weekdays by appointment
*NOTES: Hiking trail, campfire, B&B, cabin, picnics