Monte’s Canoe Trip to the Arctic Circle, 1974

February 15, 2010

In the summer of 1974, Monte made a canoe trip from Canada to the Arctic Circle with three other men that lasted almost two months.

He made this trip with Marvin Robinson, Monte’s cousin Bob Fidler and another man.   When the trip started, Monte was 35 years of age.

For those that didn’t know Monte, he was not the most physically of active people, prone to enjoy a drink and a smoker.

Along with this trip, Monte tried to keep a daily journal and took along his guitar and an art kit.   What he did not realize prior to the trip, the rigorous aspects of this journey left him physically exhausted and with little time to write, play music or artistically record what he saw during this journey.

What does exist in his journal includes some sketches of what he saw and words describing this amazing task.  Monte was also frank about his feelings and was personally, uncharacteristically open about himself in this journal.  In the journal he admitted to physical self-doubt about the trip as it went on and expressed how he felt he was the weaker link of the four on this trip.  Also, for various reasons, he grew to loath the fourth, unnamed man in this journey, but had the integrity to admit this man possessed great strength and tenacity during this trip.  He also mentioned in his journal how this man, who was paired with Monte in their canoe, carried more than the fair share of the load between them.  He added how on portages of great exertion, this man would portage the canoe and carry two backpacks at one time, while Monte could only carry one.

In his journal Monte also has kind words for his cousin and remarked how as the trip progressed, the more he grew to appreciate Bob.

There are two odd things reflected in his writings and recordings of this trip.  The first is, for reasons unknown, later in life, Monte’s appreciation of his cousin Bob dwindled.  The other item is the sparse words Monte recorded regarding Marv, who would become one of Monte’s most loyal and beloved friends until the end of Monte’s life.  There are probably several reasons for this omission.   One might have been his admiration for Marv may have been the sort that can be left unsaid and such respect need not be written of.

Monte does write about an episode where Marv made a cake for Monte’s July 23rd birthday.  His admiration of that day is clear in the journal.  Additionally, Monte writes of episodes where Marv and he were able to break out their musical instruments and jam in the wild.  One such occasion involved concerts at a wayward post deep in the wilderness of the northern hemisphere.

Throughout his life, Monte attributed this journey to being one of the most proudest periods in his life.

Below are illustrations and images related to this experience.

Notice two things:  the first is how Monte kind of resembles a dark haired Lee Marvin.  The other is his pair of boots.  For some reason, Monte was found of wearing the bottom portion of cut off hip-wader boots as footwear.

 

Above is a rough sketch of the four journeymen doing something.

Above is a sketch depicting the hardship of some of the portages these men had to make during this trip.  The image along the left of is of two of them trying to get a canoe up a steep incline.

Above is a sketch of the four men “shooting the rapids.”  In Monte’s journal he writes of almost drowning after being capsized from their canoe.  He really thought he was going to drown. Marv later said he did as well.

The men relaxing on a rock.  The man with the pipe is most likely Monte’s cousin, Bob.

This is a drawing of a night time paddling session of the four men.  In his journal, Monte wrote sometimes because of rough waters and strong head winds, traveling at night was the best way to make good distance.

A sketch of a lone member making a portage.  This could be a self-portrait of Monte and his art case.  Oddly, later in the trip, Monte’s art supplies became so burdensome to carry that he had them sent back by plane.  For his love of art, in his journal, Monte states he was quite happy to send them back.

Monte love Loons and the calling of Loons.  It is possible, this earlier posted Loon drawing came from this trip.

Above is a picture of Monte in the foreground, the family pet, Scuzz.  In the upper, right corner of the picture the is a photographic collage Marv made of Monte pertaining to their trip to the Arctic Circle.   It is a true work of love from one friend to another.   Monte’s son, Eric, retains this collage.

There is an interesting story about how their dog got the name “Scuzz.”  This dog was a stray that their daughter Kathy found and brought home to them.  At first, Sharyl did not want this dog and would demand the dog be given away to someone else.  Each night when Sharyl would come home from her nursing job, she would curse the presence of this “scuzzy” dog and how she wanted it gone.  When she felt no one would listen to her, she said she would continue to call the dog “Scuzzy” until members of the family felt too humiliated to keep a dog named “Scuzzy.”  She lost out, the dog was kept and she grew to love this dog as much as anyone else.

As a puppy it could not even climb up on to the family couch.

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