Family anecdotes, camping tips, how-tos, hiking with children, nature, motherhood, memories.

Adventures in Camping with Five Kids

Camping with kids is like pitching a tent upside down. Both are bound to fill with laughter and raindrops.

--Victoria Marie Lees

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Fourth of July Celebrated in a Desert

We were camping in the desert by the time 4th of July rolled around. We were in Nevada this time camping at Casa Blanca in Mesquite. The children—and yes, the parents!—loved the water park that the campground shared with the casino hotel. Curvy slides, tunnels, palm trees, fountains and waterfalls donned this pool area.
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Cool, crisp mountain water cascading downward into the pool.
Even manmade, it's refreshing in a desert clime.

After exhausting ourselves at the water park, we showered to wash off all the sunscreen and chlorine before dinner. But the heat soon surrounded our freshly-washed bodies again as we sat in the screen house trying to figure out what to eat.

“Do they do fireworks in a desert, Mom?” Our son asked.

Good question, I thought. I wasn’t sure because it’s so dry in the desert and water’s at a premium. However, before I could answer our son, Miss Know-It-All piped up. Every family has one!

“It’s 4th of July,” our second daughter reminded us, in typical fashion—hands on skinny hips. “Of course they have fireworks tonight. Right, Mom?”

I looked over at my husband, who was fanning himself with a plastic plate. He shrugged his shoulders and leaned toward me.

“I don’t know where to go around here,” he whispered. “I just want to go to an air-conditioned restaurant to eat.”

I rolled my eyes and sighed. My children had taught me well. “I’m going to the air-conditioned camp office to see if they do fireworks in town. Does anyone want to…”

Before I could finish my statement, the children were fighting to open the zipper on the screen house to get out. My husband had dropped the plate. Thank goodness it was plastic. He butted in line and released the children from the confines of the screen house.

            “Great idea, Vic,” he said over his shoulder.

            I wonder what the magic word was that garnered all this help.

            We found out that they had a 4th of July celebration at the Mesquite Recreation Center in town. The camp clerk gave us directions. So we packed some beach towels and water and two canvas camp chairs for my husband and me and headed to town. We ate Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner slowly in the air-conditioned restaurant and then moved on to the park. 

The park was huge and even had a grassy playing field. Families staked out spots on the grass with blankets. As my husband and I took up a spot on the grass facing the tall orange cliffs like everyone else, our kids made fast friends with other kids who were slipping and sliding in and out of a huge, dark, tented slip and slide nearby.

“Just remember where we are,” I called out to the backs of their heads. They nodded, the only indication that they even heard me through the loud music and the laughter and screams coming from other children. The good news is that they continued to check in with us about every 20 minutes or so, telling us about all the kids they met. Our kids raced around playing flashlight tag and water balloon dodgeball.

By the time the fireworks were about to begin, the sky had filled with brilliant stars. The orange cliffs were mere outlines in the blackness of night. The music had quieted slightly and our children were all panting beside us. So much for the showers. I leaned back into my husband as best as I could in a canvas camp chair and sighed.

“You know, maybe I could handle the desert if it had a night sky like this every evening,” I told my husband.

He chuckled.

I turned and peered at him through the darkness. “What’s so funny?”

“Who are you kidding? You’d be pestering everyone before lunchtime, trying to find out where the nearest forest is.” He smiled and hugged me.

It’s tough being married to a rock hound who knows my dominant trait is tree hugging!

The fireworks seemed to last forever. Splashes of orange, red, and crinkly gold filled the sky. Full choruses of “ooos” and “ahhs” rang out. By the time we returned to camp and crawled into our bunks in the coolness of a desert night, we still couldn’t stop talking about the memories shared when we New Jerseyans saw fireworks against the orange cliffs of Nevada.

Have you ever experienced fireworks or any traditional celebration in a different state or country? Did you enjoy it?


I think the most beloved music in the world is the sound of human laughter, even when it come from seven exhausted people hiking in the 104-degree desert sun where everything seems funny—rocks, bugs, even footsteps!