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Mills makes North Shore her annual holiday home

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Haley Mills returns to the North Shore every year to manage the Tom Sawyer Tree Farm retail lot on Cherokee Boulevard.

Haley Mills is a world traveler.

A member of the U.S. Freestyle Kayak Team, she spends most of the year touring the country in her RV, a kayak and paddleboard always by her side.

Mills’ travels even take her to exotic locales in Africa and to the nation of Norway, she said.

But for the past five years she’s made Chattanooga her home base for the month of December. Why? To sell Christmas trees, of course.

Mills manages the Chattanooga retail location of the North Carolina-based Tom Sawyer Tree Farm during the holiday season. She originally found the gig through a craigslist.com posting.

“This is my favorite town out of all the towns I’ve been too,” Mills said of Chattanooga. “I have a lot of friends here; a big community. Everyone’s just so friendly. They remember me every year.”

It helps that Chattanooga is also the perfect place for some off-season training. Between maneuvering, baling and loading Fraser firs onto customers’ cars, Mills fits in quick runs in her kayak on the Tennessee River and workouts at Hot Yoga Plus or Workout Anytime Health Club — all of which are a quick walk from the retail tent’s location on Cherokee Boulevard.

Some early mornings even include laps in Suck Creek, she added.

“This is my life for a month,” she said. “Just being able to jump on the river and having a nice loop to run with the bridges is awesome.”

Mills said she will be on the North Shore until Dec. 23, when the retail location closes.

“I’ll have my truck running on the 23rd, ready to go,” she said. “After this I think I’ll go to Mexico to find some waterfalls.”