Have you ever wondered what it is like to live alone in the wild, and become one with Nature?
It must be highly challenging, but very relaxing at the same time, especially if we compare it to the fast-pace, stress-rich, sedentary, modern lifestyles we tend to lead these days.
The story of Richard Proenneke, an amateur naturalist, who lived alone in the mountains of Alaska for three decades has inspired numerous people. This man lived in a log cabin which he built with his own hands near the shore of Twin Lakes, and hunted, fished, raised and gathered his own food.
He was born in 1916 in Iowa and entered the Navy during World War II. After contracting rheumatic fever, he spent half a year recuperating and started dreaming of a simple life that he eventually managed to get. His chance came in 1950 when he moved to Alaska and started working as a cattle rancher, then a diesel mechanic, and even a salmon fisherman.
He retired in 1967 and started seeking the ideal location to create his new life. He went to Iowa to prepare, and after a year, returned to Alaska, and began working to make his dream come true.
He wrote journals to document his daily activities and recorded valuable meteorological and natural data.
In the documentary “Alone in the Wilderness” Richard says:
“It was good to be back in the wilderness again, where everything seems at peace. I was alone – just me and the animals. … I suppose I was here because this was something I had to do — not just dream about it but do it. I suppose too I was here to test myself — not that I had never done it before but this time it was to be a more thorough and lasting examination.
What was I capable of that I didn’t know yet? Could I truly enjoy my own company for an entire year? And was I equal to everything this wild land could throw at me?
I had seen its moods in late spring, summer, and early fall but what about the winter? Would I love the isolation then, with its bone-stabbing cold, its ghostly silence? At age 51, I intended to find out.”
According to Mother Nature Network:
“One of the most striking aspects of Proenneke’s life at Twin Lakes is his own transformation. Originally a sport hunter and then a subsistence hunter, he evolved to become a non-hunter and conservationist.
He stopped hunting in 1980 (although he would occasionally kill and eat any porcupines that he found chomping on the logs of his cabin). Proenneke lived on his own until 1999, when, at the age of 82, he retired once again, this time to live with his brother in California until he died four years later.
He bequeathed his cabin to the Natural Park Service, which maintains it as a popular tourist destination. Visitors can not only see his workmanship but also the desk where he wrote the journals that would become “One Man’s Wilderness.” The Park Service displays his homemade furniture as examples of his “woodworking genius.”
Many people used his journals, as well as his film, as sources for their books and documentaries about the time he spent in the wilderness:
-- His close friend, Sam Keith, wrote: One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey – Paperback
-- In 1997, Richard was visited by Bob Swerer and Bob Swerer Sr, who explored the Twin Lakes area, and in 1998, Bob Swerer produced the video “Alaska Silence & Solitude”.
-- In 2003, Bob Swerer produced the video “Alone in the Wilderness”, by editing more of Richard’s previously unseen footage.
-- Bob Swerer produced the video “The Frozen North”, and edited the 3000 feet of 8mm movie film Richard Proenneke shot over in 2006.
-- In 2011, Bob Swerer produced the video “ALONE IN THE WILDERNESS PART II” after Richard’s brother Raymond discovered more unseen old footage of building and carving, canoeing and magnificent wildlife footage.