The 53rd U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree–a 79-ft. Englemann Spruce from northwestern Montana–began its nearly 3,000-mile journey from the Kootenai National Forest to Washington, D.C., following its harvesting 45 miles north of Libby Tuesday.
After the cutting, the “People’s Tree” was hoisted onto a specially designed flatbed trailer. Larry Spiekermeier, a 1.6-million mile, accident-free driver with Billings, Mont.-based Whitewood Transport, hauled the tree in a Kenworth T680 Advantage to a U.S. Forest Service warehouse. There, the special tree will be fitted with a special 80-gallon water bladder to keep it hydrated, carefully wrapped and boxed, before traveling on a tour of 15 community events across Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, and Kentucky, Kenworth says.
The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is 76 years old and weighed in at harvest at about 15,000 lb. according to Sandi Mason, the U.S. Forest Service’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree project leader.
“It’s an absolutely beautiful tree,” Mason says. “Despite all of the wildfires that burned in Montana this year, we feel fortunate that the Englemann Spruce chosen in July by the Architect of the U.S. Capitol was untouched by fires.”
The Kenworth T680 Advantage transporting the tree features a distinctive exterior design, with the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree–Kootenai National Forest seal, brightly lit and colorfully adorned Christmas Tree, and the U.S. Capitol beneath a starry sky with the words “Big Sky. Big Tree. Big Journey.” The T680 also sports the logo of Whitewood Transport, a recent multiple-year recipient (including 2016) of the Motor Carrier of the Year from the Motor Carriers of Montana, Kenworth says.
The tour stops begin Monday, Nov. 13, at the Eureka Town Hall in Eureka, Montana, and ends Nov. 26 at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. The tree will be delivered to the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 27. The U.S. Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, and a Montanan, chosen by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, will light the tree at a special ceremony in early December.