Thanksgivings past laced with outdoor memories

The holiday season is upon us, and that means it’s time for hectic schedules and high stress. But there is a cure for those not-so-happy holiday season symptoms. That cure can be found by doing something in the outdoors.

For instance, rather than racing to the store with everyone else on Friday morning, only to spend your day waiting in long lines and battling for position on the sales floor, you can grab a fishing rod and escape the madness at one of the urban ponds, Lake Mead or Lake Mohave. The silence alone would make the trip worthwhile. Catching a fish or two would be a bonus.

Or you can take your shotgun and dog for a long walk in the desert. Perhaps you might find a covey of quail or chukar along the way, but then again, maybe you simply will have the pleasure of a long walk. Either way, it beats fighting the crowds and traffic.

Though life and circumstances have changed some of the things my family does to celebrate Thanksgiving, for me the holiday always will be associated with memories of the outdoors. Those memories range from camping trips to quail hunts, and from long motorcycle rides to discoveries of hidden treasures tucked away in a remote corner of the desert.

My earliest memories of Lake Mohave date to Thanksgiving weekends in the mid-1960s. Though just a boy, I still remember making what seemed to be an extremely long drive from Las Vegas to Cottonwood Cove. There we met my Uncle Lynn and Aunt Nina Mae for a Thanksgiving campout.

We loaded up their boat with gear and headed up lake, where we met other family members and pitched our tent alongside theirs on the sandy beach in the back of a cove. For us kids, this was a place of adventure, and we spent our time scrambling up and down hills, catching bluegill and green sunfish, and throwing rocks without getting yelled at by a playground monitor. We felt absolutely free.

Sure, Mom freaked out a bit when we got too close to a ledge or the edge of what some might call the deep water, but that was to be expected. Moms are just that way.

It was on one of these trips to Lake Mohave that I first learned to skip rocks across the water. Dad took the time to show me how to pick a smooth, flat rock and then to hold my throwing hand just so. By the time I could get a rock to bounce two or three times on the water’s surface, my arm was about worn out, but it was worth the effort.

Along with catching bluegill and sunfish, I also caught a fishing rod. One Thanksgiving, I reeled in the top half of a red and white fiberglass rod, and the next year I caught the bottom half. Though I don’t recall ever having both halves of the rod in hand at one time, simply pulling them both from the depths was exciting for a young boy.

Thanksgiving dinner on these campouts consisted of cold turkey sandwiches, fresh panfish and canned cranberry sauce. No doubt each of these dishes was laced with sand from the beach, yet we loved it all.

Uncle Lynn and Aunt Nina Mae are gone now, but the memories of Thanksgiving weekends with them on Lake Mohave always will be there. May you and your families have a happy Thanksgiving outdoors and a joyous holiday season. Perhaps you can make outdoor memories along the way.

Freelance writer C. Douglas Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at