30 Years Alone In The Alaskan Wilderness, The Story About A Woodsman And The Home He Built

Categories: Life Stories
On May 21, 1968, Dick Proenneke arrived at his new place of retirement at Twin Lakes. Beforehand, he made arrangements to use a cabin on the upper lake of Twin Lakes owned by retired Navy captain Spike Carrithers and his wife Hope of Kodiak (in whose care he had left his camper). This cabin was well situated on the lake and close to the site which Proenneke chose for the construction of his own cabin.

The cabin is hand-made and is notable for its "remarkable craftsmanship" due to Proenneke's skill as a carpenter and wood worker, and because of the films he made of the complete construction procedure.[2] The entire structure and most of the furnishings are made from materials in and about the site, from the gravel taken from the lake bed to create the cabin's base, to the trees he selected, cut down, and then hand-cut with interlocking joints to create the walls and roof rafter framing. The window openings were pre-planned and cut to suit. The fireplace and flue were made from stones he dug from around the site and meticulously mortared in place to create the chimney and hearth. He used metal containers for food storage—one-gallon cans were cut into basin shapes and buried below the frost line. This ensured that fruits and perishables could be stored for prolonged periods in the cool earth yet still be accessible when the winter months froze the ground above them. Proenneke's friend, bush pilot and missionary Leon Reid "Babe" Alsworth, returned periodically to bring food and orders that Proenneke placed through him to Sears.[3]

Proenneke remained at Twin Lakes for the next sixteen months when he left to go home for a time to visit relatives and secure more supplies. He returned to the lakes in the following spring and remained there for most of the next thirty years, going to the contiguous United States only occasionally to be with his family. He made a film record of his solitary life which was later recut and made into the documentary Alone in the Wilderness. It has aired on PBS numerous times. With a score of 9 out of 10 from the aggregation of nearly 2000 votes at the Internet Movie Database, the documentary is one of the highest rated of all time.[4] In 2011 a sequel was produced after it was discovered that Proenneke had shot enough footage for at least two more programs. Alone in the Wilderness: Part 2 premiered on December 2, 2011. A premiere date for Part 3 has yet to be announced.

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