Richard Proenneke - ??

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Forum topic by NBeener posted 12-29-2009 06:22 PM 1947 views 1 time favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4816 posts in 3352 days

12-29-2009 06:22 PM

Anybody heard of him?

The other night, I was channel surfing, and came across Alone In The Wilderness. I tuned in.

Turns out, it’s the story of a guy who was a carpenter in the military, and then became a heavy equipment operator and mechanic. Quite smart. Quite skilled. Quite talented.

Moved to Twin Lakes, Alaska to do the Thoreau thing. Built his cabin. Lived 30yrs there—basically always alone.

Brought his high-quality (8mm??) camera and filmed a great deal of the experience. This particular show is the beginning—log selection, cabin building, etc. LOTS of great woodworking footage. The guy is a genius (to me, at least LOL).

A little teaser….

-- -- Neil

11 replies so far

View PurpLev's profile


8542 posts in 3826 days

#1 posted 12-29-2009 06:25 PM

pretty cool stuff
gonna watch it later when have more time.

thanks for the post.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View lew's profile


12385 posts in 3933 days

#2 posted 12-29-2009 06:33 PM

I have seen this. He is amazing. A must see for everyone!


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Dave Haynes's profile

Dave Haynes

203 posts in 3531 days

#3 posted 12-29-2009 06:43 PM

I was in this kind of country back in ‘02 just 5 months after my second open heart surgery on a fly-in fishing trip. Kind of brings back memories of that trip to me. I only wish I had the health to have done something similar to this. This is a great piece that you found. I’m going to send my brother the link since he built a summer retirement home north and west of Duluth, MN…..he probably will enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks for the great post, Neil!!

-- Dave Haynes, Indiana,

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3469 days

#4 posted 12-29-2009 07:50 PM

I was told about this years ago, and later, happened across the installment where he made the hinges for the cabin door. It looked like he was using burls, crotches, or some other odd-shaped pieces that had the strength in just the direction he needed. Fascinating. All these links are blocked at work, but I’ll be sure to take a look at home.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View Derek Lyons's profile

Derek Lyons

584 posts in 3746 days

#5 posted 12-29-2009 08:06 PM

There’s a special on him that pops up on the local PBS station fairly regularly, it’s well worth watching the whole thing.

-- Derek, Bremerton WA --

View Raspar's profile


246 posts in 3326 days

#6 posted 12-29-2009 08:08 PM

Wow, what a way to live. Simple… Some days I dream of this and getting out of the rat race.

-- Have thy tools ready. God will find thee work.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4000 days

#7 posted 12-29-2009 11:54 PM

I did not recognize the name, Neil but I have seen the show on PBS a couple of times. It is amazing what he did. He was alone in the middle of nowhere with nothing more than a canoe, ax, hand saw and chisel. Yet he managed to build and trim out a log cabin in which he lived.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View a1Jim's profile


117283 posts in 3755 days

#8 posted 12-29-2009 11:58 PM

He’s great They have a whole show about him on PBS now and then.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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Jim Bertelson

4245 posts in 3342 days

#9 posted 12-30-2009 05:28 PM

I have not seen this. I have been to Lake Clark, my partner had a cabin there for years. I’ll ask my partner if he knew this guy. My partner, Ernie, flew me into Lake Clark to see if I would buy half of his cabin, but the air only access was not practical for me. Nothing more hazardous than a professional flying planes in Alaska, from what I have seen. Its the best flying country, and the most dangerous flying country there is. There are some other Alaskan’s here who may have known him or that country better than I.

My brother lives in a cabin near Ely, Minnesota, year round till recently, but it is connected by roads, electricity, phone, etc to civilization. He is 5 yrs older than me.

These people are interesting, but you have to be into solitude for that kind of life. This kind of life is still very possible in Alaska today, and probably always will be. There are huge tracts of land that will never be developed and have no rode access, and never will. I knew a couple when I lived in Fairbanks who lived on lake Minchumina. They flew in and out, probably on skis in the winter, floats in the summer. Communicated with ham rado, very common skill for the back country people, and thats how I got to know him.

There are fewer people in the small native villages and other remote areas in Alaska every year. Most do not live true subsistance, so the cost of fuel for heating, transportation, and construction is outrageous. The population of Alaska is slowly centralizing into urban areas.

Anybody thinking of doing what Proenneke did? Go for it. It can still be done. But not by me (-:

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3352 days

#10 posted 12-30-2009 05:38 PM

Turns out the producers—a father and son—of a FEW vids about him … live in my town!

Not only have I reached out to them (hoping they might want to loan me a few dozen extra DVDs of the stuff that they DIDN’T include), but … I’m giving thought to ordering a few of their for-sale vids. Support the local economy, and all.

I mentioned to another LJ, in e-mail, that I had spent a whole day on Walden Pond, sitting on Henry David Thoreau’s piece of land and … just watching the world go by.

Medically, ... I couldn’t do it. Even if I could though, I don’t know if I could. But … yeah: who among us can truly say that … once in a while … it doesn’t look like paradise.

JimB: If Ernie knew this guy …. boy … it’d be great to get him to put a few words down, and let us know what he remembers. By definition … most of us never meet people like this.

-- -- Neil

View YPA's profile


14 posts in 3270 days

#11 posted 12-31-2009 07:31 PM

If this guy and Roy Underhill had a build off I wonder who would have won??

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