Alone in the Wilderness

Mesmerizing video excerpt on Dick Proenneke who retired to the wilderness of Alaska at age 51 and lived alone in a cabin he built with his own hands for 30 years.

Hat tip: Frans Z.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark P September 13, 2010 at 3:20 pm

This guy is amazing. I aspire to be like him.

Sam Clarke September 13, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Currently reading his book for the umpteenth time. Incredible story, one I have dreamt of for years.

Justin September 13, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Reading the book, an awesome read that really lets your mind wander the great outdoors,

Steven Sells September 13, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Wow! I love this! Dream Time for me ! Mans Man for certain!

millerindustries September 13, 2010 at 9:59 pm

reminds me somewhat of a cross between jeremiah johnson and into the wild.

cwflatt September 14, 2010 at 9:20 pm

@ Justin

What’s the name of the book?

Chad September 16, 2010 at 12:54 am

I am apologizing now for this rant, but this is something that’s bothered me for quite a while and now seems like a good time to get it off of my chest.

Mr. Proenneke is a true mountain man, a man who gave up society to challenge himself and live a more simple life (more difficult, but more simple). He lived for thirty years in the Alaska bush. His skills were top notch, how he made the door from a fist in an old root or fashioned the chimney with a collapsible form. Whether you aspire to his solitude or not, you have to respect his abilities and the multiple facets he exhibits in the outdoors.

Yet society makes movies and writes books about people like Christopher McCandless. The man lived in a bus exactly long enough to starve to death. (Its the “Rule of three’s” for survival. if you don’t know it, ask an outdoorsman). There are people still coming to Alaska and killing themselves in McCandless’ name, while Mr. Proenneke’s story lives on in obscurity. His story reflects a better understanding of his environment. A man who “gets” the determination and humility required to live with mother nature, and a story, sadly, not known nearly as well as it should be.

Jason Barker September 16, 2010 at 9:36 am

Self reliance is a trait that is as manly as it get’s.We all should aspire to be more like Mr. Proenneke who I admire greatly.

Hugh September 19, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Caught the full program that this snippet came from on PBS a few months back. I do not recall the name, sadly. Proenneke’s story is quite remarkable, and even more so is that he took the time to document it to share with the rest of us.

Jack September 19, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Dick Proenneke is amazing. The fact that he went out into the harshest bush on the continent and built himself a home out of nature cements him as a man’s man. The fact that he was over 50 when he did it and stayed there until he was in his 80s cements him as one of the tallest pinacles of manliness in the 20th century. This 10 minute clip is a nice sampling of the full video, which is about an hour long and shows him build his cabin to completion. It goes by the same name for anyone who wants to buy it and its pretty cheap.

There are actually a few other videos produced from his remarkable footage but the one where he builds his cabin is easily my favourite. Its just so cool to see a man build things like that with nothing but a sharp brain, elbow grease and a few tools. Heck, he even built a few of his tools himself (like his wicked mallet). Watching him build a hammer, tool handles, a stone fireplace, an intricate hatch and lock, an outhouse, a bed, a chair, a table, hinges, an ice box and a sturdy cabin out of a stand of dead spruce and a few other scraps is almost hypnotic.

Though “Alone In The Wilderness” is my favourite, theres a moment in a later film that really stands out to me. He takes of his pants and socks, sticks his bare feet into his boots and walks through a frigid creek as if it was nothing. No fancy gumboots, no waterproof pants, just stern will and apathy towards lesser things such as “cold” and “hypothermia”. Now thats manly.

Will Gatlin September 30, 2010 at 10:18 am

I enjoyed your write-up on Proenneke. He was mu inspiration to build a tiny log cabin using mostly hand tools, although I used a chainsaw some, and I bought roofing tin instead of creating a living roof out of dirt and moss. But hey, that man used plastic sheeting, so!

Here’s my project:

Nate October 1, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Just a heads up…you can watch the whole video in 10min clips on youtube. Search under Dick Proenneke.

Bill October 2, 2010 at 8:41 pm

I think this documentary is shown yearly on PBS during their pledge time. I may have seen it the first time about 9 years ago. I’d watch it anytime I can. It is very challenging and encouraging. What man wouldn’t want to do what he did? Or at least try. To me its not just about survival in the wilderness, its about suceeding in the wilderness. It also reminds me of my favorite book as a kid, “My Side of the Mountain.”

Kletzenklueffer October 21, 2010 at 2:36 pm

I read his book last year. The guy was such a conservationist and so in touch with nature. He rarely hunted, but fished and would visit nearby (10 miles or so walk) hunting camps and scoff the scraps of moose and caribou that hunters had left behind. He didn’t understand waste.

He spent a week or more trying to get shots of a hawk. Climbing daily to get good pictures.

He worked for the parks service and made decent wages provide film and photos for them.

One particular day is was 57 degrees below zero and he knew it was colder than normal because the cabin was moaning about it. Later, when it warmed up he went for a walk and wrote about how good the snow felt and how much it revived sore feet. It was 10-20 degrees.

He walked to a friends house to work on an engine. It was a two week hike.

I sure would have liked to have visited with him.

The book is online in pdf form for free. Just search his name.

steve archuleta December 24, 2011 at 9:24 am

this man reminds me of my greatgrand father and my dad and mother. they all know how to live simple and off the land. to me there is no better way to live. i mean a person has no worries. u grow what u eat. hunt and fish. there is nothin like it my dad would say. i respect this man to get out and really live. now to me thats livin the dream.i saw his video and its something. i wish i met this man. anyone who can ive like that, has my deepest respect. my hats of to u sir..

Lynn Beytien January 12, 2013 at 10:42 am

I am an artist, a wood burner, and love anything nature related. This series blew my mind. To watch this man build hinges, and a stone fireplace with stones he hauled down from other areas in his canoe is so astounding. I am a girl, but was so inspired by this man, and watch in awe every time the shows are shown on PBS.

carson May 16, 2013 at 6:18 am

replying to chad over 3 years late. you are mistaken about chris. he lived in the bus for around 119 days. he did not live for three weeks, (rule of threes)

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