Archive for April, 2012

the chet chronicles, book two: the not-so-great skunk adventure

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Let us recap, shall we?

There was ‘the death march.’

There was ‘the great Chet rescue.’ (if you haven’t already, read ‘the chet chronicles, book one’ below)

There was that wickedly windy night, during which Kirk had to get out of the tent and anchor the stakes because they’d been yanked from the ground by Mother Nature’s force.

There were the bathrooms that were eerily reminiscent of the porta-crappers from “Slumdog Millionaire.”

"slumdog millionaire," anyone??


There was the fact that we had no cell phone service, and no one knew where we were. And this campground had only a handful of people around.

And then there was the pack of wolves we heard howling on the other side of the lake.

Holy. Shit.

After three days of getting our asses kicked on the hiking trails in Canada and considering the aforementioned factors, we started to wonder if maybe we should pack up and head back to MN early. Maybe spend a few more days in Grand Marais before heading home. After all, we were only a week into our two-week vacation.

We visited the campground’s headquarters and inquired about getting a refund; we already had paid for a week of camping. We should have known better.

Good news: we could get a refund for the nights we wouldn’t be staying. Right on.

Initially we were refunded for only three nights, but then I did the math and got the fourth night refunded as well. I think it was something ridiculous like $75 a night to camp there. Seemed steep, but I guess that’s how they roll in Canada.

So now with that stress lifted, we started to plan the rest of our trip… in Grand Marais.

The sun started to set, so we built our last camp fire in Canada and began rounding up our stuff. We had grilled cheese sammiches, made with this awesome cooking iron: you just throw two pieces of bread around a slice of cheese, slam it into this hinged, cast iron contraption and shove it in the fire. Two minutes later, dinner. GENIUS!

mmmmm, grilled cheese sammiches!


And Kirk set up the camera and tripod to take pictures of the stars. We had borrowed his dad’s camera, and on it Kirk found a sweet “starry night” setting that would leave the aperture open long enough to take pictures of the sky in minimal-to-no light.

can you see the big dipper?


I sat by the fire trying to stay warm. Remember, this was October, and evening temps hovered at or just below freezing. Brrrr.

cozy fire


Chet was at my feet… until Hairy scampered off. Chet soon followed…

There was some rustling.

I wondered what had the dogs so frantic, so I turned on my headlamp to see where they’d gone. Away from the fire, it was black as pitch.

The dogs were at the edge of our campsite, trailing behind what appeared to be a cat. A REALLY fluffy cat. With short legs.

And then I realized that was no cat. THAT was a skunk.  Fuck my life.

And since dogs greet their own kind as well as other species with a sniff of the ass, I knew those dogs (and we) were screwed. I closed my eyes and shook my head. I mean… at that point, what else does one do?

I hollered to Kirk that the dogs were chasing a skunk, and I don’t know if he either didn’t believe me or was hoping I was joking. I wasn’t.

Hairy came back by the fire and was hacking; he’d gotten sprayed right in the face. I thought maybe Chet hadn’t gotten sprayed at all, until he too came back and… yeah, he reeked.

We tried to keep the dogs as far away from us as possible. Figured we didn’t ALL need to smell like ass.

Kirk and I sat in the dark in disbelief, trying to figure out what to do now that the damage had been done. Then we remembered: Kirk’s mom had sent along ‘odor mute’ for our trip. She had gotten some for her dog after he chased a skunk in the woods near their home, and she told us we should bring some ‘just in case,’ as she scooped a cup or two into a Zip-lock bag. We thought she was crazy, but we humored her and packed it anyway. Salvation!?

I climbed into the back of the truck and ripped off the top of the tote that had our dry supplies in it. And there it was: the Tupperware dish containing the baggie of powdery substance that would hopefully preserve our olfactory senses.

Kirk walked with the dogs toward the showers. The showers there were individual stalls, each with its own locking door. They had buttons for the water; you’d push the button, and the water would come on. For exactly 10 seconds. Ever tried taking a shower when you have to continually push a button JUST to get the soap out of your eyes? and the cold outside air is creeping in through the one-inch gap under the door? Not fun.

But it was that or nothing. So we took that.

I drove the truck SLOWLY in front of Kirk and the dogs to light the way. Keep in mind, it was probably 10:30 p.m. at this point.

Once we got to the showers, Kirk took both dogs and the odor mute into one stall and shut the door. I sat in the truck and waited. And hoped.

Ten minutes later, I saw the door open. I got out of the truck, and Kirk had a wet Chet by the collar. He wanted me to come and smell Chet to see if he still stunk. He did, but it wasn’t as bad.

Back into the shower they went. Hairy was up next.

When Kirk again opened the shower door, Hairy took off… into the black of the night. Turns out because of the situation, Hairy thought he was in trouble… so he ran. He’s quick.

My shoes weren’t even tied, but dammit if I didn’t take off in a dead SPRINT over uneven ground, chasing after Hairy. I knew that if I couldn’t keep up with him… in THIS campground, he’d disappear and we’d maybe never see him again. It was THAT dark. And THAT wide open.

And there was no one around. It was just Hairy and the Canadian woods… and me chasing after him, yelling for him to come back, my headlamp making the light in front of me bob up and down on the ground with each frantic, bumpy stride.

It was probably ¾ of a mile before I caught up with Hairy. I didn’t care what he smelled like; I grabbed his collar and walked back with him to the showers. Damn dog. But I was SO glad to have him back.

Back at the showers, Kirk washed each dog one last time with the odor mute, and then he took a shower himself. The dogs hung out in empty shower stalls while Kirk showered.

We had so much stuff in the back of the truck there wasn’t much room to put the dogs; up to this point we just had them in the back seat of the cab. But now they stunk. Like skunk.

cozy in the cab, PRE-skunk


Kirk put the dogs in the back of the truck with our camping gear and we drove back to the campsite. We wondered if we should have the dogs sleep in the truck, but it was cold. What to do? What to do?…

We got back to the campsite, and there was a fucking FOX eating out of the dog dish next to the picnic table. Seriously?!?! It was like freakin’ wild kingdom here!

Considering the skunk… and the fox… and the wolves we heard on the other side of the lake, we decided we wanted the dogs IN the tent with us no matter what. They each had a bed, and we closed the partition in the middle of the tent and opened the flaps for the windows on the side where the dogs were, hoping to air out their fur a bit more.

chet's bed


We’d had Hairy shaved a few months before the trip, but his fur hadn’t fully grown back yet. And he looked ridiculous. Since he was still damp from the odor mute shower and was practically bald, we didn’t want him getting too cold, so we threw a comforter over him to keep him warm as he slept.

pfffft... hairy's bed


After a few minutes inhaling the skunk smell in the tent, we really couldn’t even tell how bad it was anymore, so off to sleep we went.

What a nightmare of a last night in Canada.

And we’re sorry, whoever had to use or clean those showers after our dogs used them. I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant.

The upshot of having the dogs stink like skunk is that we think it got us across the border faster. We were expecting to probably have some of our stuff searched upon reentering the U.S., but once the border patrol realized we had two huge dogs in the cab of the truck… and we mentioned the skunk incident, we quickly were handed back our vet papers and passports and were told to have a safe trip home.

And we giggled as we headed back toward Grand Marais, with Stink 1 and Stink 2 in tow. Ahhhhh…

... back to grand marais. perfect!

the chet chronicles, book one: the great chet rescue

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

In October of 2010, Kirk and I took our delayed honeymoon and went camping in northern Minnesota and Canada.

Tent camping. In October.

We stayed a few nights in Grand Marais, did some hiking, enjoyed the sights. Then we were off for Canada. Eh!

I had never before been to Canada. I was sort of excited to use my passport again, since it had been in a drawer for almost four years. We also had the dogs with us. Fortunately, we had done our homework and knew we had to have certain vaccinations and verifications of said vaccinations for Chet and Hairy in order to not get them INTO Canada but to get them back OUT of Canada. Seems if your dogs aren’t properly vaccinated, you need to visit a Canadian vet before you can gain access to the United States. Tricky Canucks.

We stayed at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park; the rocks in the distance gave the appearance of a sleeping giant. I get it.

sleeping giant provincial campground


We drove around the 300-site campground to pick out the best spot. Along the way, we saw several deer and a porcupine. Never seen one of those before.

Finally we picked a spot nestled next to the lake. Turns out not too many folks tent camp in October, probably because the evening temps  linger around freezing. We brought a shitload of blankets and quilts, long underwear and stocking caps, so we were prepared. Sort of. I also prefer it to be a little on the chilly side when I’m trying to sleep. Chilly and freezing are two completely different beasts, however. I think we saw four other sites with campers on them. Busy place.

our campsite, #140A. thought the A was fitting since we were in canada, eh


Kirk asked the lady at the visitor’s center about hiking trails. She suggested one that “would probably take a few hours.” Cool.

Day 1 we packed up some sandwiches, filled our water pouches in our backpacks and set out on our “few hour hike.”

We later dubbed the hike “the death march.”

the start of the hike on 'the death march'


Long story short, it took two or three times longer than “a few hours,” and we barely made it back to our truck before the sun went down. We saw no other people along that hike, and no one knew we were there. Kirk’s legs cramped up, and he wasn’t sure he was going to make it out. I carried both our packs and convinced him to keep pushing on; we had one shitty flashlight, two curious dogs and very little daylight remaining. And we were running out of water.

Eventually we found the start of the path… and the truck! It was like finding the Holy Grail. We decided after that we’d stick to shorter trails… and ones with actual PEOPLE on them.

Day 2 we drove to a spot that had a few trails going off in this direction or that. We picked one and headed out, again with some sandwiches and plenty of water. We even put Chet’s pack on him and stuffed it with bottles of water, just in case.

chet with his pack


We didn’t get even a mile in when the dogs spotted something that caught their interest, and off they ran. Kirk tried to call them back, but they were on a mission. All I could hear was leaves rustling and the dogs… not barking, not whimpering, but…

Then there was silence.

“Chet?! Hairy?!”


I followed the path I saw the dogs take that wasn’t a path at all; it was a jungle of tree branches and chaos. Then there was a drop off. Straight down.

I’m not kidding, that hill had to have been an 80 degree angle. It was a dirt cliff, and it went on seemingly forever. But my dogs were down there, so down I went…

On my butt. In a big damn hurry.

Kirk was at the top of the hill, unaware that I had gone down it in search of the dogs. He kept calling my name, but I was too busy trying to stay upright that I wasn’t able to answer. I did a lot of yelling and probably a lot of swearing, but that was it.

On the way down, I saw Hairy trying to make his way back up the hill. He was struggling but determined, so I helped him up by giving his rump a shove up the hill.

I yelled for Kirk to call for Hairy. He did, and Hairy eventually made it up the hill back to safety.

But where was Chet?

'the hill.' it went STRAIGHT down


I called his name.


I could hear him farther down the hill, whimpering. But I couldn’t hear any movement.

I got to the bottom of the hill, my hands numb from the quick slide down, my shorts dusty from the dirt and my shoes filled with tiny pebbles. I looked over and saw Chet trapped in a massive pile of branches and tumbleweeds, almost like a giant branch/weed ball.

His pack had flipped, so there were four water bottles weighing him down on one side, and the heavy, awkward pack was preventing him from breaking free of the trap he found himself in.

Chet saw me and started to panic. He tried harder to get out of the branches, but he was stuck.

I tried to calm him down as I got closer to him, and I bent and broke and ripped branches away until I reached him. But the pack was keeping me from getting him out entirely.

I unbuckled his pack and continued to twist and pull branches away so Chet could get out.

Again, I yelled up to Kirk to call for Chet. I couldn’t see Kirk; I wasn’t even sure how far down this hill I was. But I figured if Chet could hear Kirk, he could make his way back up the hill.

And away he went, to safety.

And there I was with Chet’s heavy pack and that 80 degree incline of dirt staring me in the face.


Realizing there was no way I could climb up this hill AND hang onto Chet’s pack, I threw the pack around my neck and started to dig my way up.

That pack was heavy. Sorry, Chet.

I tried grabbing onto pieces of nature to help me up the hill, but everything that looked like a tree root was just a branch… stuck in the sand. And I’d end up yanking it out as I tried to use it for a climbing tool. Frustrating.

Instead, I wedged my fingers and my feet into the dirt, turning my feet sideways to try and get some sort of grip on this impossible hill.

It worked. Sort of.

I kept calling for Kirk to try and figure out how much father I had to climb. And to figure out where I needed to go. After all the excitement, I was a tad disoriented.



Up. Keep climbing…

I’m not sure how long it took me to crawl up that hill. It may as well have been forever. And a day.

Kirk said it was about 20 minutes, but it must have been at least 10 times that. At least!

I finally reached the top of the hill and reunited with Kirk and the dogs. Then I realized I had been running on pure adrenaline, and fatigue set in fast. I was hot. I was tired. I still had Chet’s pack hanging around my neck.

I emptied the dirt out of my shoes and took inventory of the scratches on my legs and arms. And then I took inventory of my dogs: one Hairy and one Chet. All was well.

shortly after i rescued my duggie


I had to sit for a bit before continuing on the hike, and we both made sure to keep the dogs CLOSE. I’d have been damned if I was going to let Chet and Hairy run off to explore on their own again.

The rest of the day was less exciting. Whew. The great Chet rescue was enough excitement for one trip.

Until, of course, the dogs chased that Canadian skunk in the middle of the night…

But that’s another (stinky) story for another day.