the chet chronicles, book one: the great chet rescue

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.




One Response to “the chet chronicles, book one: the great chet rescue”

  1. Chris S. says:

    Wow, what an adventure … Makes for great stories, though it sure doesn’t sound like the kind of vacation I’d want to repeat.

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