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Dick Proenneke Builds a Log Cabin in Alaska

If you’ve never seen Dick Proenneke’s movie Alone in the Wilderness, you need to watch this excerpt. It’s the story of a mechanic turned naturalist, who retired at age 50, and went to Alaska to live alone in the wilderness for 30 years. While there, he chronicled his life on film, vividly demonstrating the use of so-called “primitive skills” for survival. This excerpt chronicles the construction of his log cabin, which still stands today, and is managed by the Forest Service.

I first saw this movie on PBS during an annual fundraiser and I couldn’t stop watching it. It appealed to me on many levels: the self-reliance of a skilled craftsman, the beauty and menace of the Alaskan wilderness, and as a journal of a very articulate observer. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this interlude.

Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.

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  1. Ive seen the movie too! I recommend it to all also! Proenneke's self-reliance and master of too many skills was amazing! The things he built blew my mind and the narrative of the movie shoots out some great lines too!

  2. I've been reading a lot of bushcraft blogs recently and was reminded of this video.

    In fact, I've invited a bushcraft blogger to guest post in April when I'm off hiking a big section of the AT because I'm intrigued by what you might be able to leave behind (gear), if you can make stuff (shelter, etc) on the fly.

    Proenneke is amazing. The guy makes tools rather than carrying them in to the bush. I am simply in awe of his narration, filming, and backcountry skills. If I'd seen this movie when I was young, I probably would have pursued a different career!

  3. Proenneke has been an inspiration of mine since I first watched this on PBS. His determination, attitude and his basic needs has always intrigued me.

  4. I've seen it and actually own a copy of the movie! Thanks so much for reminding me of it. I need to watch it again sometime. Though last time, it made me consider dropping everything and building a cabin of my own!

  5. I've probably watched that video 20 times in the last 5 years. It's so inspiring. His generation was so skilled and it's a shame to watch them slowly fading away to be replaced by people who simply don't have the same kind of skills or work ethic.

  6. The book is also worth a look, check at your library, they may have the original hard-bound version. "One man's wilderness; an Alaskan odyssey" includes journal entries and some of his photographs…

    One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey<img src="http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=ultrarevie-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0882405136&quot; width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />

    One small correction, Twin Lakes is part of Lake Clark National Park, it is the Park Service that maintains his cabin.

    You can also read more here (big file 48MB)…
    <a href="http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/lacl/proenneke.pdf” target=”_blank”>http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/lacl/proenneke.pdf

  7. Dick Proenneke is the original survivorman!

  8. I've also watched it on PBS a few times over the years and what struck me is how productive unpowered tools could be with skilled hands and conditioned muscles.

    Survival in game rich Alaska with a rifle and fishing rod really isn't that impressive though.

    Independence? Not even close with all the manufactured stuff he brought in but once the cabin was finished and with a stockpile of ammo and fishhooks he could make do for years.

    Just as well there aren't more like him. Who wants thousands of cabins dotting the wilderness.

  9. Really. Most people can't find the best buy these days without a GPS. The rifle is just a sign of his time. I still think he deserves a lot of credit for his self-reliance in isolation and his ingenuity. He really couldn't carry that much in with him, and he did pretty well, living off the land. Consider how much trash building a new house creates, and I think he comes out like a prince.

  10. "I don't want these logs lookin like a boyscout was turned loose on them with a dull hatchet"

    "This lake is kinda like a woman, all smiles one minute, and dancin' a temper tantrum the next!"

    The narration is classic too!

  11. It is art. Thanks for making that point Brian.

  12. During my last year of college I bought the dvd of this and showed it to a bunch of my friends. The Boyscout line and the lake like a woman line seem to be the standout classics.

    I love this movie so much. I know I'd never do anything like it, but it's inspiring anyway. Not much more to say that hasn't been said already. Except I think you can get the whole thing on youtube now, can't you? Well worth watching five or six times if you haven't already :)

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