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Solstice run under the summer sun

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The boardwalk trail leading up the Dan Moller cabin and the bowl above makes for a nice break from pounding pavement or packed dirt.  Abby Lowell / Juneau Empire
Abby Lowell / Juneau Empire
The boardwalk trail leading up the Dan Moller cabin and the bowl above makes for a nice break from pounding pavement or packed dirt.

Fueled by the heat of a solstice sun on my back, I climbed higher into the muskeg. The boardwalk was dry and the moist meadow in full bloom. Bog violets and pink shooting stars stood out polka-dotted against the green of sedges, mosses and low-growing bushes. Closer to the trail, dwarf dogwood (or bunchberry) huddled close to the wooden planks and bog laurel bloomed in bright fuschia every few feet.

I’d parked my car at the top of Blueberry Hill and run up to the Treadwell Trail before taking the turn toward Dan Moller cabin.

It was an ambitious outing for late in the afternoon. Typically, a round-trip run/hike to the cabin is an hour-and-a-half investment and I wasn’t sure how my pregnant body would handle the climb. But as the time ticked by and my muscles warmed, the elevation became less of a constant challenge. My legs felt strong and the cushion of the boardwalk was a welcome change from pounding packed dirt.

A large group of schoolchildren bounded down the straight section of boardwalk that cuts through the lower muskeg meadow. They gleefully hopped on and off the planks, clutching the long and prehistoric-looking “flowers” of skunk cabbage. Further up, the sounds of summer air traffic — helicopter flight tours and float planes — where drowned by songbirds in the shrubbery and streams bubbling by.

I only climbed to the cabin this day. My body and soul wanted to continue into the bowl, to hike above the ridge beyond and take in the scenery of Douglas Island’s backside.

But, alas, time was running out. It had taken me 47 minutes to climb to the cabin and I wasn’t certain how slow I’d have to move on the way down. Moving downhill has become quite a challenge these days.

A mountain descent used to be filled with pure bliss. It was a guaranteed adrenaline rush and hands-down my favorite part of every run. But now it promises to be a solid stretch of touch-and-go as I meticulously plan foot placement and speed. Of course, the last thing I want to do is fall. So, between scratching speed and slamming to a dead halt at the first sign of green slime, my downhill experiences are often anything but exhilarating. To complicate matters further, I’ve developed a sobering case of shin splints on both legs.

For those who don’t know, shin splints occur when tissue fibers separate from the tibia (or shinbone), mostly as a result of overuse. Other causes can be poor posture, flat feet, inadequate footwear, or a quick increase in the intensity or duration of exercise, to name a few. In my case, I know this minor injury is a result of running with an increased body weight. It’s an ailment I know well and one I suffered from for many years when I raced cross country in high school and college. For me the treatment is a new pair of shoes, ice and lots of time away from pavement or concrete.

As I eeked my way over each stair-step, along each boardwalk plank, my tentative steps turned more confident. The pain was gone. The boardwalk, rooted into the soft blanket of muskeg moss, flexed under my weight and bounced back like a springboard.

Ahh, the bliss was back.

In 20 minutes I was back at my car — sweating, smiling and feeling everything but pregnant.

On this day, a summer solstice outing had proved both surprising and invigorating despite the odds.

In other news, I have gestational diabetes on the brain. Next week I will chug a concoction made of nothing more than sugar, flavoring and orange food dye — as far as I can tell — in an effort to determine if I have the pregnancy-induced equivalent of diabetes. During my first pregnancy, I was diagnosed with the condition around 26 weeks. And, through diet and exercise, I managed it perfectly. My son was born 100 percent healthy weighing 7 pounds, 1 ounce. But frankly, the finger pricks four times a day got old. The dietary restrictions, while not far off from my normal food choices, felt confining. And most of the time it was one more stress I really wished I didn’t have.

This time around I truly hope things will be different. In an effort to prevent the condition again, I started counting carbohydrates, spacing meals and trying my best to avoid anything refined. But research shows that women who develop the condition with first pregnancies are more likely to suffer from it in the future.

I’ll share the results next week. In the meantime, my fingers are crossed.

This week’s trail of choice is (yes, you guessed it) the Dan Moller Trail. This trail is one with historical significance in the local ski community. In the 1930s, the first skiers began clamoring around in the valley that extends above West Juneau. The U.S. Forest Service constructed a trail, a rope tow and a pair of warming huts for winter enthusiasts. As the years passed, skiers wanted more elevation. By the 1950s, efforts had moved into the Douglas Ski Bowl just beyond the Dan Moller cabin. Oola, the snow cat, would carry 40-50 skiers up to the area and before long the area boasted two rope tows. Oola didn’t last forever, and was ultimately replaced by a Snow Master snowcat that ran up until the opening of Eaglecrest Ski Area. Today, the official Dan Moller Trail begins off of Cordova Street on Douglas. It climbs roughly three miles up to the Dan Moller cabin and continues into the bowl above. In the summer, the trail is mostly boardwalk and a great choice during a dry spell of weather. The cabin itself is a public use cabin maintained by the USFS and was recently remodeled in 2010. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

•••

• Week-by-week
• This week's mileage: 25.09 miles.
• Runs: 5.
• Pregnancy stage: 27 weeks.
• Trail of choice: Dan Moller Trail (Length: 5.5 miles roundtrip).

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