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Naturalist, Old Skool Blogger
February 10, 2005 10:05 AM   Subscribe

To live in a pristine land ... to roam the wilderness ... to choose a site, cut trees, and build a home ... Thousands have had such dreams, but Richard Proenneke lived them. In 1968, at 51 years of age, Richard Proenneke retired to Upper Twin Lakes, Alaska and using nothing but hand tools, built a cabin where he lived for the next 30 or so years. He filmed the cabin's construction (as well as much of nature's wonder) and kept meticulous notes on the back of wall calendars. In 1973, Sam_Keith produced a book (One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey) based on Proenneke's journal entries and photography. In 1999, at the age of 82, Proenneke could no longer endure the harsh winters of Alaska and moved to California to be with his family. He died there on Easter Sunday, 2003.
posted by a_day_late (16 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Next air date: March 15, 2005

The TV program was played during the Winter Break many times. Sure PBS will air it more through out the year.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:18 AM on February 10, 2005


My father is actually doing something similar: he lives in an A-frame cabin my grandparents built themselves 40 years ago. No running water, no electricity. He spends most of his time gathering firewood, roaming the woods, and photographing Mt. Hood. I adore going to visit him; it's an incredible way of life. I'm frankly envious of him and Richard Proenneke.
posted by Specklet at 10:23 AM on February 10, 2005


Sounds perfect. Thanks for this.
posted by sageleaf at 10:29 AM on February 10, 2005


I shudder at the thought of actually doing this. I just read Laura Berton's account of life in the Yukon (I Married the Klondike) with all its stories of people freezing to death fifty feet from their own door because they were too overcome by the cold to make it any further. But I love reading about it, so great post!
posted by orange swan at 10:40 AM on February 10, 2005


I attending a conference in BC last summer. My wife and I stumbled across this documentary late one night in the hotel. As tired as I was from the meetings all day I watched the entire thing. Fascinating to see this man make things with his hands, things we all take for granted. He just grabs a chisel, an axe and a pile of wood and knocks together some furniture that looks like it was made using power tools and a belt sander.

It came on PBS over winter break and we watched most of it again, just to watch him build things. I consider myself fairly handy with a box of tools, but this guy... man, you just sort of have to watch him work. Great set of links - I'm forwarding this to my wife right now.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:42 AM on February 10, 2005


Our PBS station in Arkansas aired this thing a couple of months ago. To me it wasn't the isolation that was that interesting, ..but the guy had awesome woodworking skills. You gotta see it to understand.
posted by thisisdrew at 10:48 AM on February 10, 2005


My father is actually doing something similar: he lives in an A-frame cabin my grandparents built themselves 40 years ago.
I also lived similar to this, minus driving to the store for supply goods or renting a hotel several time for a warm bath{not that I didn’t bathe}. Living without electricity was not the hardest part; The cold during the nights and early mornings grew tiresome. This was during the Summer in the Lewis & Clark National Forrest near Great Falls, Montana. The work was hard, like chopping wood yet it was more of an adventure than doing home chores, felt like Huck Finn/Tom Sawyer. I've done it twice and the memories and stories I’ve collected are my most treasured rewards.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:59 AM on February 10, 2005


You gotta see it to understand.

I must agree that no description can do the film documentary justice. As several have noted, it airs on PBS from time-to-time and is well worth seeking out. Oh, and it's my first FPP so I'm glad it has been well received thus far.
posted by a_day_late at 11:14 AM on February 10, 2005


I'm pretty sure that's not the same Sam Kieth (note spelling) that did the Maxx, etc, considering he was a teenager in the 70s.
posted by philscience at 11:29 AM on February 10, 2005


I stumbled across this on PBS a few months ago myself, and was a little surprised by how completely engrossing it was. Thanks for the links!
posted by scody at 11:40 AM on February 10, 2005


I bet I have watched this three or four times since PBS "discovered" it as a pledge tool, and it still amazes me. Congratulations for finding a few more links than I did when I blogged about it a few months ago. I might have to borrow a few of these to update my own post.
posted by briank at 11:44 AM on February 10, 2005


I'm pretty sure that's not the same Sam Kieth (note spelling) that did the Maxx, etc, considering he was a teenager in the 70s.
posted by philscience at 2:29 PM EST on February 10


Looks like you are right. Wikipedia linked to the wrong page from its own Proenneke entry. A google search reveals that the Kieth/Keith mix-up happens a lot so maybe MeFites will cut me some slack.
posted by a_day_late at 12:13 PM on February 10, 2005


I saw this when I was young and it had a profound effect on me. Great to see it on PBS again, I wonder if they will ever show the second film listed on the website (20 years later). The image of him making the hinges for the door really stuck with me for some reason.
posted by 445supermag at 12:17 PM on February 10, 2005


website (20 years later).
Seems one of the shows I watched(saw it 4times, yet not in its entirety, why I’m glad it is on DVD) ended with him leaving the cabin for the last time and it being a Nation Land Mark. He was free to use when ever he wanted. His dying was never mentioned that I recall though.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:46 PM on February 10, 2005


For those who loved the documentary, I also highly recommend the book. It's a very engrossing read. There's a bit of Hemingway in the simple poetry.
posted by Man O' Straw at 2:26 PM on February 10, 2005


This is like "Into The Wild" with a happy ending.
posted by Frank Grimes at 5:03 PM on February 10, 2005


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