Thursday, April 24, 2014 · 7:52 p.m.
Professional kayaker and paddleboarder Haley Mills comes to Chattanooga for the outdoor recreational opportunities and works at a North Shore Christmas tree lot. (Photo: Staff)

Professional kayaker and paddleboarder Haley Mills travels the world and competes in exotic places such as Africa, Mexico and Norway, but she spends time in Chattanooga every year operating the Christmas tree lot on the North Shore. 

"It’s an awesome community," she said. "It's good to be able to go to the river and, if it rains, the creeks."

This year is her fourth year working at the Tom Sawyer Tree Farm, which is located at 10 Cherokee Blvd. 

The Kentucky native is a sponsored athlete and is on the U.S. freestyle kayaking team.

She competes in freestyle kayaking, whitewater kayaking and whitewater paddleboarding; and she also does a little bit of flatwater kayaking, she said. 

She didn't know anyone when she first came to Chattanooga, but she came here because it was so close to so many outdoor recreation spots, she said. 

She lives in her RV, and this year, she came to Chattanooga to take a break and get grounded in September after months of competing. 

"I usually spend a couple months out of the year here for trees and friends," she said.

She answered a Craigslist ad and got the job selling the trees, which are brought in from a farm in North Carolina, she said. This is her first year managing the local tree lot. 

Although the busiest time for Christmas tree sales has passed, she will be selling trees until Dec. 22, she said. The lot is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.

Prices vary by size of tree; and Mills and the other employees will trim the branches, bail it and load it on the customer's vehicle. 

It's interesting to watch people pick out their trees, she said. 

"Some people want the Charlie Brown tree, and some people want the perfect one," she said. 

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