Dark skies threatened overhead and sticky mud sucked at boot bottoms, but Devin and Jaden Mason would not be deterred from the zip line along a row of Christmas trees.
Robyn and Anthony Mason drove from Benicia on Saturday to have breakfast in Occidental with their three children before heading to Reindeer Ridge on Mariola Road south of Sebastopol in search of a holiday tree for their home.
Even the threat of rain — and a few real drops Saturday afternoon — would not cancel the day, Robyn Mason said.
"December is so crazy we just get it on the calendar," she said. "If it wasn't this weekend, it probably wouldn't be any weekend. "
Christmas tree lots and farms were hopping Saturday, with families braving the sloppy grounds and wet tree limbs even before another round of heavy rain expected Sunday.
The first weekend of December is typically one of the busiest of the brief but hectic tree-search season, so even one day of rain can hurt the bottom line, said Reindeer Ridge co-owner Debbie Garavaglia.
"It does affect our business, truthfully," she said of the storms that canceled tractor rides Saturday. "But there are the diehards. For some people, tradition is tradition. If they are going to come out, they are going to come out."
Lisa Dittmore hit Mark's Tree Lot at the intersection of Dutton and West Third Street in Santa Rosa with her two grown daughters after she tried to dodge the Christmas tree obligation at her house this year.
"I told them I wasn't going to do a Christmas tree this year and they revolted and said &‘We are going with you,' " Dittmore said.
She was quickly put in the mood, taking pictures of her daughters with their pick as a wood fire burned nearby.
"We used to do that growing up," Dittmore's daughter Jessica Schneider said of the annual trek to the tree farm. "This reminds me of growing up. I have a daughter at home, she's 10 months. We didn't want a fake tree. It's kind of more the attitude."
Andy Pease and his wife, Vanessa Deugarte, drove up from their home in Oakland with two friends to make a day of visiting a tree farm and having lunch in Sonoma County. The lack of rain was just a bonus, he said.
"This was the only weekend we could come, so we were going to come anyway," he said.
The Fuller family from Sebastopol used a weather app to determine when Saturday would be the driest window to hit Reindeer Ridge. And even though the tree will be wet, the trip was worth it, according to Caroline Fuller.
"We thought, &‘There's a break,' so we'll just shake it off and bring it in the barn," she said.
For Josh Fuller, wandering up and down between the rows of fir and leyland cypress is about sharing a holiday tradition with his two daughters, Madeline, 4, and Samantha, 1.
"We figure we only get six, seven, eight years with these two when they actually like this," he said.
(Staff Writer Kerry Benefield <NO1>writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached <NO>at 526-8671, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @benefield.)