Richard Proenneke's Journals

Despite his remote location and fierce independence, Dick was not a hermit; he maintained friendships and wrote back to anyone who sent him a letter. He saw his correspondence, films, and journals as a way to share a life untethered to the commercial world. His observations have inspired several books and videos.
 
a man sitting at a desk writing
Dick at his desk sometime between 1977 and 1979.

Journal Collections

 

"Today would be a good day to finish the new mantle for my fireplace. Square the ends and rip it to the proper width. Mortise the notches to fit the pegs. Plane and sand the top. It looked pretty good. ...Not many fireplaces with a choice of three mantles and only 30 seconds required to change from one to another." -November 4, 1968

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Paperback: Purchase a paperback edition from our partners at Alaska Geographic.

Summary

These journal entries cover the years in which Proenneke moves to Upper Twin Lake, builds his cabin, and encourages his friend Sam Keith to write One Man's Wilderness.

Visited by neighbors, both four-legged and two-legged, Dick Proenneke's life at Upper Twin Lake was a rich existence. Lucky for us he was a devoted writer, capturing in his journals life in Alaska's wilderness - the ebb and flow of nature and the daily lives of those making their home in the wilderness that would later become Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Read along to experience Proenneke's way of life away from "the grind" and follow the seasons of Twins Lakes with an intrepid guide.

Publication Details

Author: Richard L. Proenneke
Editor: John Branson, historian for Lake Clark National Park & Preserve
Publisher: Alaska Geographic
1st edition: 2011
ISBN: 978-0-9825765-3-3

"Dinner would be served about three thirty if the chicken was tender ...Mashed potatoes and brown gravy, noodles & dumplings. Sourdough biscuits and honey. Jello and hot chocolate later. By the time I had finished I was uncomfortable. My birds knew it was Christmas and came for many helpings of hotcake." - December 25, 1974

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Summary

In More Readings from One Man's Wilderness: The Journals of Richard L. Proenneke, 1974-1980 readers find one of Alaska's best known wilderness icons going about his daily chores, documenting wildlife behavior, and participating in the creation of Lake Clark National Monument in 1978-79 and later the National Park and Preserve in 1980.

From his first visit to Twin Lakes in 1962, Proenneke kept a journal and eventually donated all of them to the NPS. Branson's light edit does not change Proenneke's writing. Explanatory notes and maps are provided to inform readers unfamiliar with the territory.

Publication Details

Author: Richard L. Proenneke
Editor: John B. Branson, historian for Lake Clark National Park & Preserve
Publisher: National Park Service
1st edition: 2005

"A boy 17 yrs. old . . . writes – 'I am writing this letter from a deep need to find within myself. That need has surfaced itself in my life as my ultimate goal. That goal is to live a life like you are. At this point in my life I’m not sure what I will be doing later on, but I have always wanted to live in the Alaskan Mountains,' end of quote.. . Since reading my book he wonders if I would take him on as an apprentice. But, that I might feel that he was intruding and he wouldn’t want to do that. He writes 'I just want someone who knows how to live life to its fullest to show me how to stay alive,' end of quote. . . . He ends by writing, 'I thank you for your time. I hope the snow falls lightly and the wind howls softly. God’s blessings on you.' Poor kid, how do you answer such a letter and not do more damage than good? I’ll lose some sleep thinking about that one . . ." - January 18, 1981

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Summary

As Proenneke's friend and journal editor John Branson writes: "Proenneke was a keen observer of wildlife and the natural world, but he was also an astute observer of human nature." Proenneke has often been referred to as a hermit, alone and isolated and cut off from any type of contact. This couldn't be further from the truth. Because of the continued success of his book One Man's Wilderness things changed dramatically. It seemed everyone wanted to meet "The Man." With the U.S. Congress passing the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the Twin Lakes area became a prime destination spot almost overnight.

A Life in Full Stride describes the multitude of visitors Proenneke encountered not only from the general public, but also from National Park Service staff. Thanks to the precision he took in documenting detail about the happenings in the Twin Lakes area, the reader is able to travel along with Proenneke, as if he was right by the reader's side.

Publication Details

Author: Richard L. Proenneke
Editor: John B. Branson, historian for Lake Clark National Park & Preserve
Publisher: Friends of Donnellson Public Library
1st edition: 2016
ISBN: 978-1-68419-714-9

"A tropical night and all of my freezable were outside. Less snow this morning and a pleasant morning it was. A high ceiling and without expecting to see bear sign I checked the mtns. and wasn't disappointed..." -October 8, 1991

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Summary

While advancing in age, Proenneke still maintained a busy life at Twin Lakes, full of energy with passionate interest and an acute understanding of nature. With visitation at Twin Lakes growing in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Dick took his role as a Volunteer-In-Park seriously, greeting and helping park visitors as well as helping National Park Service employees with various projects.

Publication Details

Author: Richard L. Proenneke
Editor: John B. Branson, historian for Lake Clark National Park & Preserve
Publisher: Friends of Donnellson Public Library
1st edition: 2018
ISBN: 978-1-64316-386-4

Read This Book

Author: Richard L. Proenneke
Editor: John B. Branson, historian for Lake Clark National Park & Preserve
Publisher: Friends of Donnellson Public Library
1st edition: 2020
 

More Proenneke

 
A Exakta camera and leather case

Exakta VX llb Camera

Proenneke loved taking still photos of the scenery around him and this camera was always with him as he traveled around Twin Lakes.

a handmade sign that says

Handmade Wilderness Sign

This sign provides insight into the evolution of one man's wilderness ethic.

a handwritten page of cursive writing

Thanksgiving 1968

Read about Proenneke's Thanksgiving at Twin Lakes in 1968.

Photo of a man with a tall walking stick standing in alpine tundra with jagged mountains behind him.

One Man's Alaska

Filmed in 1977, this 27 minute long documentary can be viewed online for free at the National Archives website.

Dick Proenneke standing in front of his cabin

No Place Like Twin Lakes

Dick Proenneke visited his cabin at Upper Twin Lake for the last time in the year 2000 at the age of 84. Follow along during that visit...

 

Last updated: June 4, 2020

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