DELTA, Colo.

Somewhere between mile markers 55 and 56 off Highway 50 in the barren desert of Western Colorado stands a symbol of hope known by many names, but Delta native, Brad Carelli knows it by one. ” It’s the Fool’s hill Christmas Tree,” said Carelli.

Many stories spanning generations tell the tale of the lone evergreen tree taking root in the inhospitable landscape, and this Delta historian says part of his family tree is tied to the tradition. Carelli says, “My grandmother’s first cousin’s husband was a heavy equipment operator and he was working on the highway. The highway department was widening the road up there, and this juniper tree was right next to the highway, and they didn’t want to have to grade it so, they got permission to move it further out.”

The Fool’s Hill Tree was actually two trees in the late 50’s, but the smaller of the two died after relocation and the original tree died in the late 80’s. The newest replacement is a blue spruce planted in 2002, but it’s unclear who was the first to decorate the tree that’s become tradition. “There was one year when I was in college commuting to Mesa. I stopped and put a couple bobbles on it,” said Carelli.

Charles Kuralt also took notice of the tree and featured the story in the late 70’s. Kuralt wrote, “Just looking at it makes you think about how unexpected life on earth can be. The tree is so lonely and so brave that it seems to offer courage to those who pass it and a message. It is the Christmas message: that there is life and hope even in a rough world.” Carelli says, “If you get a chance this time of year, have a look. It’s actually beautiful country out there.”

Whether you call it the Little Desert Christmas Tree, The Fool’s Hill Christmas Tree, or The Highway 50 Christmas Tree, this lonely blue spruce against the painted sky will inspire hope to travelers as they gaze upon the miracle growing in the desert.