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Bravery and a bare, white belly

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Portions of the Sheep Creek Trail wind close to the river and, in early summer, offer glimpses of local wildflowers.  Abby Lowel / Juneau Empire
Abby Lowel / Juneau Empire
Portions of the Sheep Creek Trail wind close to the river and, in early summer, offer glimpses of local wildflowers.

When it rains, it pours.

Not all welcome the flood. But for me, the deluge has brought a rich assemblage of great things.

First, I passed my follow-up glucose test, which means I bucked the odds and dodged gestational diabetes in this second pregnancy. This means I will sidestep a multitude of unpleasantries. Perhaps most importantly, it means my baby and I seem to be reaping the rewards of pregnancy exercise.

Second, my prenatal check-ups, which now happen every two weeks, are fantastic. So far, I’ve gained a total of 26 pounds and am still gaining roughly a pound per week. My blood tests are normal, as is my blood pressure, which registered most recently at 110/70. And, my fundal height, which is a measurement of the uterus used to assess fetal growth and development, is 34. Generally speaking, this number (measured in centimeters from the mother’s [filtered word] bone to the top of the uterus) corresponds with the number of weeks pregnant. In my case, I’m measuring one centimeter larger than “expected.” It could be baby’s on a growth spurt.

Third, I feel great. To me, this is wholeheartedly important and, frankly, isn’t something all women can boast at nearly 8 ½ months pregnant. I have no swelling to speak of, my energy levels are good and I’m sleeping, eating and exercising well.

Speaking of exercise, the recent bouts of sunshine have done amazing things for my motivation, while also teaching me a few lessons about gear.

In short, get the gear right. Especially when you’re toting around an internal space heater.

I’ll enlighten with a short story.

It was a hot (for Juneau) Tuesday around 3 p.m. Temperatures hovered around 75 degrees and a breeze drifted gently down Gastineau Channel from the north. I bustled quickly through the tourist gauntlet of downtown Juneau and headed down Thane Road toward the Sheep Creek trailhead. My goal? Get away from the crowds and get a tan.

Upon my arrival, the parking lot was nearly empty, aside from one car parked near the exit. I took note and headed up the trail, certain I had found solitude.

What I hadn’t banked on was the oppressive, moisture-laden heat that wrapped itself around every corner of the wooded trail. There was no breeze to push it aside or to cool my brow. My shorts clung, like damp rags, to my legs. A black Lycra tank-top with a tag that advertised its “moisture-wicking” ability, did nothing but make me feel like a sausage in a sweat lodge.

“This is temporary,” I thought. “As soon as I hit the valley, I’ll cool off.”

After ten minutes of hiking, I crested the ridge and dropped down the trail that winds along Sheep Creek.

There, however, was no breeze. And, no more shade — only sun— glorious, blinding sun.

I loved it. But so did my black tank top.

Before long, all I could think about was how I wanted to rip the top off my body. How I wished I had the abs of eight months ago.

“If I wasn’t pregnant,” I thought, “I’d be running in a sports bra and shorts right now!”

Then I realized something freeing and absolutely true — who cares? There was no one but me on that valley trail, nothing surrounding me but the cottonwoods, the sun, the ferns and a babbling stream. So what if I bare my white belly to the sky?

Nothing there would care but me.

So, I did it. I peeled off the sweaty, Lycra confines of the black tank top and wadded it up in my fist, like I was crushing a bad piece of writing.

Ah! Relief!

My pace quickened and I smiled. The breeze across my body felt like I was floating through feathers.

That all faded moments later. A pair of women, walking the trail, appeared from around the bend. I thought of hiding, turning around or quickly trying to squeeze back into my shirt.

Too late — they were upon me.

“Hi, I just knew I’d see someone as soon as I took off my tank top,” I said.

“Oh honey, you look great!”

I laughed as I thought of how I must look: belly round as a pumpkin and as pale as the cottonwood puffs drifting across the trail. It was entirely possible the tour helicopters overhead could have spotted me.

But, that simple comment had entirely made my day. Whether or not I actually looked great is debatable, but at that moment, flying down the flat, grassy trail, edged with fireweed on one of Juneau’s most glorious days, I certainly felt great. And that is absolutely all that matters. Oh, and I got a tiny tan.

I haven’t worn that tank top since the day along Sheep Creek. I found my body prefers anything flowing as opposed to form-fitting. Shorts are rotated with running skirts, which offer huge benefits in the breathability department. And, there’s nothing that quite beats a quick splash of cold creek water on the face, neck and arms. I’ve found that’s by far the quickest way to cool a too-warm-for-comfort body.

With the return of the rains, this week’s trail of choice is really anything that drains well. I would feature the Sheep Creek Trail, but the first 10 minutes of the trail is crowded with roots that become quite slippery when wet. Hence, I choose the Red Mill Trail. This single track loop spurs off of the Perseverance Trail at two locations: the first just after the first set of double bridges and the second just before the three mile mark. Both spurs are well marked. The trail itself climbs tightly along the edge of Silverbow Basin, crossing a few small creeks before wrapping back toward the main trail. It’s a nice break from the crowds found on Perseverance and a relaxing jaunt that provides a bit of new scenery for those who frequent the area. Roundtrip from the Perseverance trailhead is about 5.5 miles.

• Remember, everyone is different. Make sure to check with your doctor or midwife before beginning an exercise program. Contact Outdoors editor Abby Lowell at abby.lowell@juneauempire.com.

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