Richard L. Proenneke, Wilderness Steward

Richard Proenneke, whose friends called him Dick, is an icon of wilderness values and an inspiration to those who value simplicity, direct connection with nature, self-reliance, and ingenuity.
 
"I have found that some of the simplest things have given me the most pleasure. They didn't cost me a lot of money either. They just worked on my senses. Did you ever pick very large blueberries after a summer rain, walk through a grove of cottonwoods, open like a park, and see the blue sky beyond the shimmering gold of the leaves? Pull on dry woolen socks after you've peeled off the wet ones? Come in out of the subzero and shiver yourself warm in front of a wood fire? The world is full of such things."
- Dick Proenneke
 
Photo of a man standing in profile filming with an old-fashioned movie camera on a tripod. In the background there is a blue lake and distant mountains.
Richard Proenneke at Snipe Lake filming movie clips in 1975. He and his brother Raymond flew there in the J3 Cub.

Photo courtesy of Raymond Proenneke

 

Dick first visited Upper Twin Lake in 1962 at the invite of his friends Spike and Hope Carrithers of Kodiak, Alaska. Proenneke continued to vacation with them at their cabin on Upper Twin Lake in subsequent years. After an eye injury that threatened to leave him blind in the late 1960s Proenneke wanted to put down roots far from civilization by building his own cabin amid the natural beauty of the Twin Lakes region.

Proenneke arrived at the Carrither's on Upper Twin Lake in 1967 at the age of 51 determined to scout out the best construction site for his own cabin. The ideal location was 200 yards west of the Carrither's guest cabin. Another friend from Kodiak, Herb Wright, had applied for a Small Track Lease on the site in 1960; however, in a sad turn of events, Wright became terminally ill. He encouraged Proenneke to use the site instead. That summer Proenneke harvested spruce trees and in 1968 he began construction on what would become his cabin and wilderness home during the next thirty years. A master craftsman dedicated to living simply on the land, he used local materials, simple tools, and human ingenuity to craft a home and life in keeping with the wilderness. Proenneke chose to live in this isolated wilderness without electricity, running water, telephone, or other modern 'necessities.'

Dick brought a keen sense of curiosity with him to Twin Lakes. Without the distractions of modern life, he was able to hone in on the natural world around him. Dick meticulously recorded his observations of weather, wildlife, and even other human visitors. He came to know the landscape around him intimately, observing the changing seasons, wildlife patterns, and weather variations from year to year.

 

Inspiration

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.

 
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.

Photo of a man looking away from the camera towards a lake bound by tall mountains.

No Place Like Twin Lakes

Watch Proenneke's last visit to his cabin at Upper Twin Lake in the year 2000 at the age of 84.

Book cover features a photograph of a cabin in the winter surrounded by trees and snowy mountains

The Journals of Dick Proenneke 1967-1973

This covers the years when Proenneke moved to Upper Twin Lake, built his cabin, and encouraged Sam Keith to write "One Man's Wilderness."

Book cover showing a man sitting on rocks amid snowy mountains.

The Journals of Dick Proenneke 1974-1980

Readers find Proenneke going about his daily chores, observing wildlife, and participating in the creation of Lake Clark National Park.

Book cover featuring photo of Proenneke cabin sod roof with American flag.

The Journals of Dick Proenneke 1981-1985

The newly published Proenneke journals describe life in the first few years after Twin Lakes became part of Lake Clark National Park.

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Port Alsworth, AK 99653

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