Behold the typical Christmas tree: A faux fir fashioned from metal and plastic with that special dragged-from-the-attic scent. Or maybe it's bound like a hostage and plucked from a pile in a parking lot, a soulless commodity masquerading as tradition.
As an alternative, drive the switchbacks of California Highway 17 through the Santa Cruz Mountains a few minutes west of San Jose, pull off and ascend twisty roads into a canopy of oaks, redwoods and evergreens so thick you'll need to flip on the lights. Follow crudely painted signs pointing in all directions to places like Mountain Charlie Ranch, Raccoon Gulch, Patchen and Frosty's.
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