Dick Proenneke and his incredible story are familiar to many, and for good reason. Proenneke turned every outdoorsman’s dream into reality.
At age 52, Richard Louis “Dick” Proenneke walked into the Twin Lakes wilderness of south-central Alaska with not much more than some tools and a desire to test himself against the vagaries of a beautiful and unforgiving environment.
Proenneke built a cabin on his own, using his knowledge of carpentry and skill with just a few hand tools, many of which he carved the handles for on the spot in order to save on weight in packing them into the site.
He hunted, fished, grew and foraged his food, and lived an almost entirely self-sufficient life for the 30 years he lived at Twin Lakes. Bushcraft wasn’t a weekend skill for Proenneke. It was his daily manner of living.
Had Proenneke accomplished that much in itself, his story would be incredible and inspiring enough. But the world benefitted by Proenneke’s passionate and thoughtful chronicling of his odyssey. He filled journals and rolls of film documenting his life and the beauty of the world around him.
Proenneke’s cabin site is now included in the National Register of Historic Places, and the movie of his life, “Alone in the Wilderness,” created from Proenneke’s own films, is considered to be a cinematic masterpiece of wilderness living.
The impact of Proenneke’s life and story cannot be underestimated. His adventure has served as the paradigm for what many people long for: a life of simplicity and purity, intimacy with the natural world, and a thoughtful brand of rugged individualism.
The entire 60-minute film, “Alone on the Wilderness,” and other films about Proenneke may be purchased via the official Dick Proenneke website.
One of my favorite quotes – and there are many – by Dick Proenneke, is this:
I’ve found that some of the simplest things have given me the most pleasure. They didn’t cost me a lot of money either. They just worked on my senses. Did you ever pick very large blueberries after a summer rain? Walk through a grove of cottonwoods, open like a park, and see the blue sky beyond the shimmering gold of the leaves? Pull on dry woolen socks after you’ve peeled off the wet ones? Come in out of the subzero and shiver yourself warm in front of a wood fire? The world is full of such things.
I am reminded of it every time I watch his film.