Petrified wood and a case of the shingles


We just took a three-day camping trip to the Kalapooyas where we would have hiked some new trails had snow not blocked the road at 5,000 feet. We backtracked for miles, thinking we might cross the crest another way, but a fallen tree blocked that access. We shredded a tire on a piece of basalt on our descent, and Baxter barfed on the bed while we changed it. We washed our bedding in a mountain stream, but couldn’t get the stink out, so resolved to live with it. My left eye began to hurt like hell from what turned out to be shingles, but—not knowing what it was, or that it could cause blindness—we decided to live with that too.

The roads blocked, we scrambled up steep rocks as an alternative to hiking. I love the challenge of bushwhacking and scrambling as much as Peggy hates it, so I was surprised that she was keen on both scrambles. We reached the top of the second rock and looked off its 500-foot summit just as lightning began to strike at the rate of three per minute, which both exhilarated us and inspired us to descend like people pursued.

We had planned to camp for three nights, but rain sent us home after two. We didn’t mind since we were tired from scrambling, and my eye was hurting worse all the time. On our return, I found numerous pieces of petrified wood in a road-cut, along with charred wood and wood in various stages of petrifaction, all twenty feet down in a pile of rhyolitic ash. The growth rings were as sharply defined as if the trees had just been cut. I suspect the ash came from nearby Mount Mazama (now Crater Lake) because of its depth. Along with the wood were stones of varying sizes and compositions that predated the ash and were blown skyward with it during the eruption. To see a pile of volcanic debris rising high above my head in a road-cut without even knowing how deep it stretches beneath my feet, inspires me to awe. Furthermore, to find wood—both charred and petrified—in that ash and to speculate that, if it did come from Crater Lake, Indians would have witnessed the explosion, adds to my awe. I felt as if I had come upon the scene of a long ago battle, the artifacts of which now lie in peace and stillness, their repose disturbed only by distant thunder and the splatter of an occasional raindrop.

I felt so bad when we arrived home that I’ve spent two nights sleeping in a chair to alleviate the pressure in my head. The rash only appeared last night, and Peggy diagnosed it as shingles. I did some research, and was sufficiently frightened to drive to Urgent Care this morning before it even opened. The doctor prescribed a painkiller and an anti-viral agent, and told me to come back tomorrow to verify that the infection hasn’t spread into my eye. The pain resembles that of a bad bruise in the eye socket itself.

Later

I turned Peggy’s small garden with a shovel today, which might have been a mistake given how weak I am. My eye is swollen half shut, and the rash has spread to my upper forehead and eyelid. I feel sicker than I have been since the last time I had the flu. I read that the pain can become excruciating, which makes me very glad that I have access to medical care, and can afford $200 prescriptions along with Sunday and Memorial Day doctor visits.

I just ate for the first time today (at 8:00 p.m.), and feel as if I might have trouble keeping it down.

2 comments:

Sonia ;) said...

Wow...didnt know shingles did that....I thought shingles were the shits...Ok pardon my language...no thats what I was thinking. On to the next post...Snow Im playing catch up on your Blog...Its like a great book you want to keep reading.

Smiles,
Sonia ;)

Snowbrush said...

I knew shingles appeared on the skin because I knew a man who had it. He was elderly and groused about it but went on with life, so I assumed it was just one of those afflictions of which old people are forever complaining but aren't to be taken seriously.

Shingles that start around the eye can get into the eye and cause permanent blindness. The pain from shingles anywhere can be intense, and in some cases can last indefinitely. There are people who can't stand a draft to hit their skin much less for clothing to touch it. I can't give you any stats, but chronic shingles has lead to suicide.