The 67-foot tree that will be lit in front of the U.S. Capitol made a pit stop at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase before heading to the Capitol early Monday morning.
Mary Cernicek, the Capitol Christmas tree coordinator, helped handpick the tree from the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. The 83-year old Engelmann Spruce traveled across the state of Wyoming stopping at various communities before traveling cross-country.
Cernicek, who works for the U.S. Forest Service, said that the tree usually makes a stop at the center each year. There, the crews removed the banners on the flatbed trailer and did other last-minute staging prep work.
SkyBitz, an asset tracking management company, has been keeping tabs on the tree since its journey began Nov. 10. A worker attached a device to the flatbed trailer that carries the tree, and every 15 minutes it sends a signal giving the location of the tree on the "Track the Tree" website.
The first sign of the tree in Chevy Chase was at 2:29 a.m. Monday near the intersection of Jones Bridge Road and Connecticut Avenue. By 3 a.m., the tree had made it to the National 4-H Center. Shortly after 8 a.m., the tree had made it to its final destination in downtown Washington, D.C.
Another trailer followed the tree on its journey, with 6,000 ornaments to decorate it and 80 other trees from Wyoming that will decorate various offices on Capitol Hill.
The tree traveled under high security, too. The oversized load had law enforcement drive in front and behind the flatbed tractor-trailer carrying the tree.
"We do watch the tree 24-7. We don't leave it unguarded," Cernicek said.
On stops along the more than 4,800 mile drive, she said, the crew makes sure people look and don't touch. Cernicek said they don't want to deliver a less-than-perfect tree and make sure visitors don't touch or break off any needles as souvenirs.
"It's been quite the trip," Cernicek said of the 19-day journey with the tree.
The tree now stands on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. It was lifted by a crane into a 5-foot hole and then cemented to the ground. It will be lit Dec. 7 at 5 p.m. by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), one of her final duties as speaker.