With spring break just around the corner, I’ve been spending a lot of time researching camping locations. Nothing makes me happier than spending a few days in the great outdoors, cooking meals on a camp fire and sleeping under the stars.
Last year Greg and I spent a few days camping at possum kingdom in west Texas. Upon arrival we set up camp next to the lake, surrounded by trees, cacti and large boulders. I quickly realized that camping in the south was very different from the north-eastern locales I was used to. Raccoons, foxes and the occasional bear were no longer my biggest concern as this region harboured poisonous snakes, lizards and coyotes.
The park ranger warned us of rattle snakes that inhabited the crevices of the surrounding rocks and that these snakes would occasionally even swim across the lake in search of food. After learning this vital information I was haunted by the idea of being bitten by a ravenous and poisonous snake. Every step I took was carefully investigated as I feared dying a horribly painful death via snake bite.
The next morning I woke up and decided to walk to the camp’s public washroom. The hot sun glared down on my back as I made my way to the building. As I approached the door I was suddenly face to face with my biggest fear; a rattlesnake! Before I could even catch my breath I was running in the opposite direction towards the safety of camp. Greg met me with concern and decided to further investigate.
He coaxed me back to the washroom where, much to my surprise the door was not barricaded by a rattle snake, but by the tail of a large peaceful iguana. Relieved, I made my way up to the door when suddenly the Iguana became possessed by Satan; it’s face puffed up and it hissed at me. I stepped back trying to give the lizard some space and it returned to its corner. I moved in for a second try, and I was greeted with more hissing. I finally gave up and decided to do my business in the woods. Unfortunately for me I fell on a cactus on my way to the bushes and spent the rest of the afternoon picking needles out of my skin.
This year we will be camping in Arkansas where snakes and lizards are few and far between and the only place I’ll see cactus is in my soda.
Key Lime Cactus Soda
2 ½ cups of cane sugar
juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. fresh key lime zest
juice from 10 key limes
2 cups nopalitos cactus, thorns removed and diced
pinch of salt
In a large non reactive saucepan combine sugar, lemon juice, key lime juice and zest, cactus, salt and 1 ½ cups of water.
Bring liquid to a boil and simmer until sugar is dissolved and liquid thickens.
Remove from heat and let steep 1 hour.
Strain and discard cactus. Store syrup in a sealed bottle in the fridge. It can last up to 2 weeks.
To make soda, pour 1 ½ tablespoons of syrup over ice and mix with fresh seltzer water. Enjoy!