In Fine Fettle: Community-facilitated health

By Ammi Midstokke
Reader Health Columnist

The Brown Dog and I were out for our morning run complete with her bow of pink toiletry totes. She’s a lady, so we use sophisticated terminology instead of ‘poop bags,’ and they’re pink because we must be able to identify our bags from all the other bags along the trail. She knows exactly what is going to happen when we pull into the trail head at Greta’s Segway.

Ammi Midstokke.

She’s going to run about 17 yards, drop a load, then carry on, untroubled by the chore of staying regular. If only all our bowels were as efficient and responsive, I think to myself as I bag it up. For a glorified version of a poopologist, I am surprised at how much this responsible-dog-owner job still repulses me.

We’re trotting up the trail, and we see the morning regulars. There’s the sweet lady who carries dog treats (Freya now just starts doing tricks for her upon sight). There are the barking dogs, the playing dogs, the dogs who follow us, and my personal favorites: really small dogs who make a lot of angry noise. I always refer to them as “Killer.”

“Easy Killer,” I say as we work our way past a beautiful black cocker spaniel/cujo mix.

The soil is perfect. It’s just the right kind of sticky and bouncy. I see some mountain bike tracks and sense the residual glow of the grins that must have accompanied them. I see pairs of ladies nurturing friendships, or maybe complaining about their husbands, but I’m not sure there is much of a difference.

We run past the sign at the top and wind around Little John’s, then head down the switchbacks of Sherwood. I think of all the people I’ve run with here. There’s the sweet girl who wanted to try trail running years ago. I remember her telling me how excited she was to one day meet “the one.” She’s married and has a baby now.

There was the day I ran and just missed someone’s last breath at the overlook. Tragic, but a serene place to cross sides. There are the winter fat bike rides with the guys and the snowy-sinking runs with my bestie. There’s the lovely doctor couple who are always out with their eight or so dogs and impressively recycle shopping bags for toiletries.

There are the “I’ve been meaning to call you!” conversations and the “How are the trails?” and the “We should do this race!” and “How’s your kid?” fly-by interactions. The other day I only had time for a short run and in the two miles I covered, I met a half dozen humans I know and like. (It could be argued that I like everyone who shares a love of trails.)

But on this morning, it was a little cool and a little quiet and we saw few people. We made our way across the pipeline in the lower section and took a right, weaving happily between the trails.

Suddenly, we came across some kind of trail sorcery! Where previously there was a steep incline, the trail had magically morphed into a series of sweet, banked turns that wound back up the mountain. What kind of forest nymph cast this spell? I asked myself as Brown Dog and I tested the new corners.

The sheer joy I feel when I run, ride, hike and sometimes rehab my way along these trails is unparalleled. They have been built with love, good deeds, gifts of time and labor, and a shared vision. It is the community of these people that keep me and many of us healthy.

So thank you. I don’t have enough column space to express my gratitude here, but it is boundless. Thank you everyone who makes the trail magic happen. Thank you to those who say good morning, who pack out your doggy leftovers, who put rocks on the fence posts, who make art, who cut wood and move dirt and make these glorious mornings possible. If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t be out there smiling every day.

These trails are maintained by the Pend Oreille Pedalers. If you’d like to become a member, learn about their work, or make a donation visit

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