Real trees rule.

Inlander Traditions: Fake Plastic Trees

Dear Dad,

Can we please go back to our tradition of having a real Christmas tree? Some of my favorite holiday memories were weaving the lights around the tree with Mom, shaking needles off of my clothes and out of my hair, and how my hands would smell like pine afterward. Or how we would have to keep Jack the dog from drinking the water from the bowl in the Christmas tree stand.

It's just not Christmas with that fake, plastic toy we pull down from the attic. It comes in parts. Rather than assemble it, I want to tie our fresh tree to the top of the car, and then try to figure out how to get it through the door. My favorite tradition is putting on the Christmas lights with Mom, but now they're already attached.

But if you still say no, I guess I can alter my other favorite tradition and put out fake cookies for you.

Love, Quinn

A snowy, moonlit stroll

Waking up to freshly fallen snow outside your window is a glimmering sight to see in the morning sun, but that shine becomes magically magnified at night. On a clear night, the moon illuminates the white-blanketed forest, making dark hour hikes accessible to cold weather hikers.

Annual moonlight snowshoe hikes at Schweitzer Mountain are both a family-friendly activity and a perfect introduction to the popular wintertime activity. The hike winds through the mountain's old growth forests out through Picnic Point, says Dani Demmons, the activities manager at Schweitzer Mountain.

If the weather permits and hikers get a clear night, from Picnic Point the snowshoers will get a view of Lake Pend Oreille, she says.

"[Snowshoeing] is a great way to explore the mountain environment for those who are non-skiers," says Demmons.

Snowshoeing is as simple as walking, but taking a bit wider steps. Once you get through waddling for the first few steps, it becomes fairly easy.

The guided Sandpoint hike is about a 3-mile round trip and is doable for all abilities and ages 13 and older. Some guides recommend bringing poles, though the trek is geared toward beginners and intermediates. Be sure to layer up to stay warm in the after-dark temperatures; it also doesn't hurt to wear bright colors.

Many new, excited snowshoers will arrive in jeans, unaware of how much snow you pick up, Demmons says. She recommends wearing snow pants and boots with good ankle support.

"The biggest thing is dressing for it," she says. " Something that will keep you dry and warm."

Sat, Dec. 26, 5-8 pm. The $30 cost includes snowshoe and headlamp/flashlight rental, trail fee, a guide, snacks and hot chocolate at the conclusion. Call to sign up at least a week prior at 208-255-3081 since there are only 18 spots. Schweitzer Mountain, Sandpoint, Idaho. schweitzer.com.

The not-so-dark side of the mountain

Snowshoeing not quite your speed? Then pick up the pace on the slopes under artificial light. Gain momentum while night skiing or snowboarding at 49 Degrees North. Runs will be lit up on the lower and upper mountain for both young and experienced skiers and boarders to enjoy. Keep in mind that the slopes will be more slick when the temperature drops, so pack on some extra layers.

There are four nights scheduled this season, with the first on Dec. 26, from 4-8 pm. Lift tickets are $4 along with two cans of food to be donated to the Chewelah Food Bank; otherwise it's $15. Find more information and the other dates for the season at ski49n.com

Get outside to experience the natural winter wonderland of Riverside State Park.

Over the river and through the woods

Stroll on foot or via hayride through the 2-mile Winter Wonderland event that's again returning to Riverside State Park. The Bowl and Pitcher area, including the swinging bridge, are illuminated by thousands of lights, and by beaming smiles beside the blazing campfires. Organizers plan to host some live entertainment this year, either in the form of a storyteller or musicians, says park program specialist Cherie Gwinn. There's also going to be an assortment of holiday treats and hot chocolate, and of course, Santa Claus.

Dec. 11-13, open daily from 5-8:30 pm. Riverside State Park, Bowl and Pitcher area, 4427 N. Aubrey L. White Pkwy. $5/person; ages three and under free. No Discover Pass required.

Hockey holidays

The Spokane Chiefs are home for almost the entire month of December, including two games against the nearby rival Tri-City Americans. The Dec. 12 game against Tri-City features the annual Teddy Bear Toss; bring a teddy to donate for the toy drive, tossing it onto the ice after the Chiefs score their first goal of the night.

There's also a throwback jersey night for the Dec. 19 game against the Portland Winterhawks, celebrating 100 years of hockey in Spokane. Then ring in the new year at a game on Dec. 31 with another showdown against Tri-City. Ticket prices range from $10 to $23; available at ticketwest.com.

Heigh-ho ho ho

Just as holiday recipes are handed down in some families, so is the art of picking out and chopping down a Christmas tree. Permits cost $5, but lucky fourth graders in the Northwest can get a free tree-cutting permit from the Colville and the Idaho Panhandle national forests as a part of the Every Kid in the Park program.

If this isn't a tradition in your home, be sure to do research before heading out to the forest with an ax in tow. Some laws and regulations include harvesting at least 50 feet from a road and not harvesting from recreation areas, according to the Forest Service. Read up on the rules at tinyurl.com/q4pfrg8.

For more information on getting that free pass, go to everykidinapark.gov. For other general information on obtaining permits, visit tinyurl.com/pxqhjgz.

Harvest Festival Craft Faire @ Green Bluff Grange

Sat., Oct. 1, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun., Oct. 2, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat., Oct. 8, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun., Oct. 9, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat., Oct. 15, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sun., Oct. 16, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
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