Pic by Dewa;  “Frost”  ilg’s 2018 Christmas Tree Being cut and delivered by Dewachen Ilg (11) for her Daddy.  Like any genuine Tannenbaum?  Oh, this lil’ Tree Being is part of a lineage of ilg family Christmas Tree adventures… here’s a classic fr(om) my own memories when ilg was about Dewa’s age…

“For Chrissakes, let the boy go, Yo!  He can do it, he’s young and strong!” Thundered my Dad’s voice throughout our 3-story country mansion 3 miles west of Durango on the San Juan Forest interface.

“Yo” was my Dad’s nickname for my M(om), Marjorie Ilg.   The thundering voice was rare.   M(om) was the matriarch.

“But, it’s cold and with fresh snow…we need a big tree…”

“i…i…can do it, mom…i’ll take Apache with me,” i stammered.  At barely 12 and a product of the “Children are to be seen, not heard,” philosophy of parenting?   Rare were the times i could manage the inner spunk to speak my truth to my parents.

Apache was my Wolf hybrid.  Jet black; He took on and Cleared all of ilg’s Accumulated Black Karma and wiped it White.  Blessing of an incarnation.  Searing yellow eyes straight into the Soul.   ilg’s first Sat Guru.  Apache bequeathed ilg’s first Transmission.

“Steve?, “ stated Dad not unkindly yet set like aged concrete, “See this ceiling?”  He nodded upwards.   We were speaking on the second, the main floor of our mansion (so it seemed to ilg) which featured a 30′ vaulted A-framed cathedral ceiling supported by a 13′ x 20′ moss-rocked chimney that was the gigantic spine of our mansion, and certainly was the architects salient feature.

The year was 1974.

I set off, uphill, into blowing snow.  Strapping ilg’s feet into leather bindings firmly attached me to bec(om)e instantly one with the large, wooden snowshoes with rawhide cobwebbed decking.   There was little in the way of elegance when using these Native American snow mobility devices, yet?  They worked.  And?  They were a workout.

Charged with parental (per)Mission to secure our family’s Christmas Tree?  Adrenalin coursed young veins.

“C’mon Apache!   Up to the northeast shoulder of Deadwood Canyon!”  Knew the wild and steep country outside my parents mansion like the way the kids today know how to text.  Just so happened, ilg knew of a deep grove of Douglas Fir perched just above a high gradient slope.   As the Founder and Captain of “FORT HORNY TOAD” – The Premier Childhood Fort Of The ENTIRE Junction Creek Drainage?  –   hec, outdoor adventure was native to my Soul and this Mission?

All OVER it!

Thus, with axe in hand, Wolf by side, and Snowshoe beneath?   Upwards through the deep snow behind my house to the Douglas Fir stash!

Permits?   Uh, no.  We just went.

Thoughts of avy (avalanche) danger?  Uh, no.  We just we went.

Figgering out just HOW a newly-minted 12 year-old boy was going to find, fell, and s(om)ehow drag back through fresh, deep snow a 18-foot Christmas Tree to his country h(om)e?

Well, THAT part was easy-peasy in young ilg’s mind;   See,  immediately ilg flashed upon the NE ridge line of Deadwood Canyon cuz, the Tree could be cut and then schussed down the (okay, super steep) hillside down into Deadwood Canyon whereupon ilg could veritably ‘surf’ on top of the tree, down the super steep slope until it slid to a stop and then, yeah, ilg knew there’d be a tough 800-meter pull back to h(om)e… yet?

Hey,  ilg was 12 on a Sacred Pilgrimage deemed appropriate by M(om) and Dad!   to this day,  the regal feeling of being charged with such a Mission still rifles ilg’s spiritual cells.

“Apache!   I found it! The PERFECT TREE!”   My words echoed throughout the upper reaches of Deadwood Canyon as ilg yogi-squatted beneath a swaying, beautiful Douglas Fir whose top?  Could not quite see, yet her trunk was a solid 12″ in diameter.  Sawing began.   Apache now adopted His version of yogi squat upon the tips of ilg’s snowshoes.

Gasping for breath, taking a break fr(om) the  awkward biomechanics involved with the felling a 20′ tree on a 28% slope of fresh snow with a Wolf squatting upon the tips of snowshoes which were longer than myself?


He cocked his elegant head slightly as if to say, “Go on…”

” Would you mind getting OFF my snowshoes, so i can down this tree and get home?  It’s getting dark and i’m FREEZING!”

It was then that ilg heard the Sound.

The same Sound that would later haunt my 13 years spent as one of our nations first professionally sponsored alpinists…

The Sound of a startingly quiet… HUUUUUUMMPH!!!

You see, Dear Reader,  ilg’s and Apache’s antics upon the fresh snow had triggered an avalanche.  Before another Mind Wave could arise?

Ilg was riding a wave of 25 feet-per-second avalanche crashing, smashing, demolishing Gambel Oak, Pine, and rocks into the abyss of Deadwood Canyon.

“APACHE!!!!”  ilg recalls shouting out as the avy began her several-second run which felt like an eternity to ilg in the fading light.   Do recall an image of Apache – almost Hanumanesque-like – leaping laterally across the crushing cascade of snow before ilg was sent under and then amazingly resurfaced on top of the avy as she roared to a stop.

Will never forget the decibel pitch in Apache’s barking as He ran toward young ilg semi-buried in the run out debris which felt like a million cinder blocks threatening to break me every bone.   Apache began digging furiously at the concrete snow which tethered ilg into motionlessness.

“THANK YOU, APACHE!  I LOVE YOU SOOOO MUCH!”  spat coughing words fr(om) a young thoracic cage nearly crushed by the avy’s intensity.   “LET’S GET THIS TREE HOME!”

How, exactly,  that young ilg did what it took to survive an avy and then go on to drag back home a 20′ foot tree which graced our Christmas like no other tree, ever?   Have  no idea.   As ilg taps these keyboard keys to deliver this Christmas Tree Story to you?  ilg recalls frozen toes, fingers and an equally numbed mind.  Yet?  In the end?  Ilg and Apache never gave up and delivered.

These days?   ilg’s Christmas Trees look like a branch upon that chi-ldhood tree.  Yet?   Graced now with 11 year-old Dewachen and a deeply extended family and friends to help ilg support Her as we attempt to keep her growing up in Her daddy’s native h(om)e and the land where Her Granddad wanted to live most and did what it took to move us kids here?  And to Dewa’s Grandmother, “Yo” who now lives beneath Dewa’s and my apartment –

well,  see,

The Tree you see pictured?  Frost is Her name… was cut down and delivered to ilg by Dewachen.

Wanna guess where fr(om)?

Ilg will tell you.

With her M(om),  Mile Marker 4 up Junction Creek Gravel Road in the San Juan National Forest, a scant  1/2  vertical mile just uphill west from where Her father started an avalanche fetching a Christmas Tree for his own family.

To this day, Noble Reader?  Next time you park at the now ridiculously overcrowded Lower TrailHead of the Colorado Trail at Junction Creek?  Look Northeast.   There…across the drainage of Deadwood Canyon?   Just over where now my childhood friend’s home of Ted Hermesman lives?  See that landslide scar, down that steep slope?

Yup, that’s a monument to the Way kids used to be;   Out There,  DOING IT, for their parents, sure, yet really? Inwardly?  They are out there doing it for THEIR OWN SENSE OF SELF, unpolluted by parents and other spoils.

For better or worse?  Dat’s how us kids rolled back then.

Enjoy your OWN Sacred Tree this (W)holiday Season and know that Trees?

They Are The Answer!

Just like YOU!

Dare to BE,



head bowed,

spirit vowed,


coach ilg


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