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Hard Core Onelers: Dick Proenneke (part 2) September 3, 2009

Posted by Onely in Great Onelies in Real Time, Great Onely Activities, Profiles.
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Welcome to the Hard-Core Edition of our series, Great Onelers In Real Time. Today we are talking about back-to-nature afficionado extraodinaire, Mr. Dick Proenneke. We’ve covered him before, but he’s so hard-core he needs a second post. 

I just finished reading the book about Proenneke’s first year in the Alaskan wilderness, where he built his own cabin using only hand tools and white spruce trees (ok, with some polypropylene and tar paper flown in for a roof). One Man’s Wilderness is a collection of Proenneke’s journals compiled and edited by his longtime friend Sam Keith. In his journals, Proenneke reveals his respect for and enjoyment of his fellow man. In this post, I want to emphasize that even though he spent most of his last thirty years living by himself in a cabin next to a remote mountain lake, he didn’t do it because he disliked people. Sometimes loners or singles’ rights activists are viewed as asocial or even anti-social. Dick Proenneke was neither. 

In one journal entry, he decides to build bunk beds instead of a single bed because he “might have company”. Remember, he’s forty miles and a float plane ride from the nearest town. But he still wanted to be prepared for guests. He muses how he’d like his brother to come stay for a few weeks and see the beauty of Twin Lakes. When the supply pilot Babe arrives every few weeks, Proenneke looks forward to the letters he receives from friends and family back home. In turn, he writes long letters back to civilization–that is, when he isn’t working on his understated, quietly joyful journal entries that describe how thrilled he is to be making his own way in the wilderness with his own two hands. The following essay excerpt is taken from One Man’s Wilderness and unlike the journal entries in the book, may have been composed by Sam Keith using his ample knowledge of Proenneke’s outlook and writing style. Keith was friends with Proenneke  for over 40 years, ever since they worked together at Kodiak Naval Base in Alaska. He also spent two weeks at the hand-hewn cabin (presumably that extra bunk came in handy after all). So we can assume that the Dick would concur with the below “Reflections” as related by Keith: (more…)

Hard-Core Oneler: Dick Proenneke June 12, 2009

Posted by Onely in Great Onelies in Real Time, Great Onely Activities, Profiles, Secret Lives of the Happily Single, single and happy, solo travel, We like. . ..
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DickProennekeCabinWelcome to the Hard-Core Edition of our series, Great Onelers In Real Time. Today’s Hard-Core Oneler is former Navy carpenter Richard Proenneke. In 1968, at the age of 51, he went to the ultra-wild wilderness of Twin Lakes, Alaska and built himself a cabin by hand, with no chain saws or other automated machinery.  He even carved the handles for the tools he used to hew the spruce logs. Then he lived in the cabin for over thirty years.

The mesmerizing video  Alone in the Wilderness by Bob Swerer Productions tells the story of Dick’s first year at Twin Lakes. Dick used a tripod to film himself building his cabin. We see many shots of him from the backside, walking away from the lens with a determined, slightly bow-legged stride, once with a sheep ribcage strapped to his back. He films grizzly bears rolling joyfully  down snowy slopes. He feeds birds by hand. He makes door hinges, for goodness’ sake (I didn’t know you could make door hinges; I thought they grew on the door hinge tree).  (more…)

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