2022: The Summer that Wasn’t. And Triumphing Over Shingles So I Could Trek in Scotland! Off to Glasgow.

31 10 2022

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted to this blog, and mostly it’s because in 2022, I’ve had a series of health issues! But with great determination, medical attention and tenacity, I’ve pulled through.

In January I had plans to join friends on a Tour du Rockies alpine ski road trip. But Covid got to two of us, and it didn’t happen. Then, suddenly, with work time off still approved, I got better. I managed to go all by myself! I went to Crystal Mountain, Big Sky, and Mount Bachelor. Then, in February, I returned to Mount Bachelor, where I had a ski injury which strained my shoulder. I spent several weeks in physical therapy. Still, I managed a trip to Taos New Mexico in March! In May, I had a bout with salmonella. Then, in June, I was diagnosed with shingles in my left ear. This eventually led to Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, which paralyzed the left side of my face. I couldn’t use my left eyebrow. My left eye wouldn’t close. I could not chew on the left side of my mouth. I was not allowed to be outside for any length of time because my left eye would not close. But I’m back.

I am a passionate outdoor enthusiast, and to not camp, hike, sail, run, and paddle outside was torture! For all practical purposes, summer 2022 was canceled. No less than 4 camping trips were canceled. My job involves paddlesports. My boss and coworkers were very accommodating, and I am thankful for that. We guide and teach paddlesports, but we also sell retail. So, I could work inside our store. I had booked a trekking trip in Scotland’s Highlands and Isle of Skye for September – So I was very anxious to prepare for that!

By late July, I could close my eye, and drink normally from a cup and chew on both sides of my mouth. My doctor said I could exercise. So, with great determination and tenacity, I worked up a training regimen. My flight to Scotland was to leave August 31st. I had just a few weeks to train, but train I did! I hiked 7 miles every 3rd day. I did as much lower body and abdominal exercises at my gym that I could manage.

This was to be a terrific trip. We would hike the West Highland Way, then Glencoe, then Isle of Skye, and then Cairngorms National Park. I’ve been on treks before, two to the Himalayas (Chomolhari in Bhutan, and Annapurna Sanctuary in Nepal), plus the Cordillara Huayhuash in Peru. Those were glamping trips. But on this trip, we’re staying in inns and hotels every night! Wow! Showers and restaurants! And on August 31st, I was packed, ready as I could manage, and I was off to Glasgow!

I was fortunate to book a non-stop flight from Portland, OR to Amsterdam for the connection to Glasgow. That way, I could avoid the problems associated with making connections in the USA, plus any weather delays or missed flights. Once landed, I grabbed an airport taxi. After chatting with the driver, it turned out that he had picked up my tour leader, Cathy Ann, earlier in the day! I checked in at the Ibis Styles in downtown. It’s a hip-modern style hotel. The bar food isn’t much to praise, but it was adequate for my jet lag.

I had errands to run. Reading up on conditions in the Highlands and talking with a Scottish friend of mine back home, I was warned about swarms of tiny biting insects called midges. The Scottish summer of 2022 was a long one, and the midges were still out and about later than usual. When I was going to be trekking! With that in mind, I set out to find some bug repellant and a mosquito net. I was told to head to a pharmacy called “Boots” in a mall down on Buchanan Street. I was also told there are some outdoor stores there.

Within a couple of blocks, immediately I noticed two things. First, there are almost zero street signs. Some of the buildings on corners had the street name on them. I was thankful for Google Maps. Secondly, it seemed there were empty offices everywhere. I wondered if there was a downturn in business, or maybe people were fleeing to the suburbs. Or, perhaps Covid had converted many Scots to telecommute from home? Walking further, the age of Glasgow became apparent. There were very old buildings everywhere. From churches to cathedrals to homes and offices. And mixed in were much more contemporary style buildings.

I reached Buchanan Street. I needed three items. Some bug spray and a mosquito net. And I needed to exchange US dollars for UK pounds. While most of the walk over wasn’t very busy, Buchanan Street was bustling with walking traffic.

Score! Bug spray. The mosquito net was more challenging. Two stores were sold out! But a 3rd had lots. Finding a currency exchange was a frustrating experience. I finally found a tiny office in one of the shopping malls. But I got it done.

In the early evening, our group met back at the hotel for our first orientation. Then tomorrow will be our first hike of the trek. It’ll be 12 miles to the Bridge of Orchy Hotel! The weather forecast is awful. In fact, it shows a full week of rain. Well, it’s Scotland, right?