Alone in the Wilderness – The Story of Dick Proenneke

I got an email from a reader named Betsy (Thanks Again Betsy!) the other day after she had read about my upcoming nine tiny free project. Along with her note she sent a link to a movie about a man named Dick Proenneke. You may already know his story but I’ll summarize it below for those, like me, who had never heard of him before. But first watch this short version of the movie Alone in the Wilderness (2005). It’s about 9 minutes.

In his 50’s Dick Proenneke decided to spend some of his retirement in the wilderness. He chose a place called Twin Lakes in Alaska and in 1968 built a log cabin using nothing but hand tools. It was about 11′ by 15′. It had glass windows, hand-made wood door hinges, and hand-made furniture including a desk, chairs, bunk, and tables. He even built a stone and mortar fireplace to make it through the cold Alaskan winters.

Initially he planned to stay only a year or so but ended up staying 30 years. From time to time he’d travel back to civilization to spend time with family but continued to call his remote cabin home. In 1995 at age 82 he decided that the -50 °F winters were just too much and decided to live out the rest of his life with his brother in California. Dick Proenneke died on April 28, 2003 and left his cabin to the park service who now maintains it as a historic site and popular visitor attraction.

He also documented his life in film, photography, and writings. When filming himself he’d place the camera in a secure spot while he performed the task he wanted to record. This meant he also captured clips of himself walking and canoeing to and from the camera.

I realize this post is a bit off topic, except for the cabin and lifestyle, but I thought I’d share it with you on this first weekend in November. It’s a really inspiring story and stories like these can really help when times seem like they are getting tough. Don’t you think?

Photo credit to the Park Service.

7 thoughts on “Alone in the Wilderness – The Story of Dick Proenneke

  1. Bill Zaspel says:

    I have watched this story on public television twice and read the book. Dick was a real survivalist and truly independent. This is an incredible story or self sufficiency and endurance and I highly recommend it to anyone.

  2. Steve says:

    I highly recommend the video. While I’m sure the book is fantastic, the man’s carpentry skills must be seen to be believed. Woodworking of that caliber is a lost art, sadly.

  3. kathy burnett says:

    the film on PBS was incredible, it stopped me in my tracks that evening, missed what ever I had going on,but I couldn’t believe his vigor and his god given talent!!!! amazing!!!!

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