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In New Hampshire, Decorating Christmas Trees in the Woods is a Thing People Do

Sean Hurley
This tree can be found about a half mile up the Pine Flats Ski Trail leaving off from the Smarts Brook Trailhead.

Some people get their trees at the supermarket, some at Christmas tree farms.  Some cut them down in the National Forest.  They take them home and get out the tinsel and the ornaments and the lights. But in some New Hampshire parts, not everyone brings a tree home.

Some people like to decorate Christmas trees in the wild.

Producer's note: As with every Sean Hurley story, we really recommend giving this a listen!

I was out walking last week on the Pine Flat Ski trail in my home town of Thornton.  It’s not flat, I’ve never seen a skier there – but there are pines. The trail runs alongside Smarts Brook – and as the trail rises the brook falls away into a deep, moss clad gorge.

At the height of land, there’s a pine forest.  Green triangles everywhere, as my son Sam once said. And it was here amongst these green triangles, about a half mile from the road, that I found a fully decorated Christmas tree.

Next day, I took my wife and son to see it.  We brought along an ornament to hang on the tree, to sort of add to it, to join up with whoever it was that decorated it in the first place.

But half-way there, we came upon a group of 7 men, led by Mike Boisvert of Thornton, decorating their own tree beside the path. “We did this a while ago actually in Peterborough on a hike,” Boisvert says, “and I think we just thought ‘Oh what a cool thing to do.’ And we went out on a hike and we decorated a tree, we bought presents with us and we exchanged presents at the same time.”

Credit Sean Hurley
The decorators and their tree.

And with a Christmas Party planned for today at his house, Boisvert thought it was time to do it again. “So we decided why not go for a hike before we have the party and find a tree to decorate,” he says, “I mean I put out the idea no one said, ‘What a crazy idea…’ Right? You guys are OK with it right?”

Rob Laverdure nods at the alrightness, “I think it's great,” he says. “It's happiness. Brings a smile to your face. We all brought something.”

Credit Sean Hurley
The tree after the snow fell.

Laverdure holds up a red star and silver ball as Rick McCurdy removes and hides his jingle bell hat and ornaments as though the Christmas police might be nearby.  “I feel like we're going to get arrested!” McCurdy says and laughs. “So whose idea was this? Who did the decorations?”

If the Christmas police did ever catch them, John Norman has an answer. “We're going to come back in March and take everything down,” Norman says. “So we are going to check on it every now and then. Maybe people will add to this one also.”

“Or maybe the tree next to it will start getting decorated,” Boisvert adds, “and we'll have a little Christmas tree decorated forest.”

“It will be like three trees, four trees, five trees decorated in this area,” Norman says. “We'll start a new tradition out here.”

After Rob Laverdure sets his red star on the top of their tree, the seven continue their hike, until they come upon the decorated tree I found the day before.

“Yeah they didn't bring it all the way to the top. There's no tree topper, so ours is much better!” John Norman says and laughs.  

“What's kind of nice about it,” Mike Boivert says, “is someone is doing it on behalf of not really themselves but for other people.”

“In the middle of nowhere.  It’s like what were they thinking?” John Norman says.

Credit Sean Hurley
My wife Lois and son Sam add an ornament to the tree.

My wife and son find an empty space in the tree and hang our ornament as the seven wild Christmas tree decorators head off. As we leave the land of green triangles, my son points out that we’re going to have to come back. There’s another tree we need to help decorate. 

Sean Hurley lives in Thornton with his wife Lois and his son Sam. An award-winning playwright and radio journalist, his fictional “Atoms, Motion & the Void” podcast has aired nationally on NPR and Sirius & XM Satellite radio. When he isn't writing stories or performing on stage, he likes to run in the White Mountains. He can be reached at

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