It was the spring of 2010 when I watched Alone In The Wilderness on PBS for the first time, and ever since I’ve always tuned in again each time they rebroadcast it. It’s that amazing. The original documentary was produced in 2004 and tells the story of Dick Proenneke who, in the late 1960s, built his own cabin in the wilderness at the base of the Aleutian Peninsula, in what is now Lake Clark National Park in Alaska. Using color footage he shot himself, Proenneke traces how he came to this remote area, selected a homestead site and built his log cabin completely by himself. The documentary covers his first year in-country, showing his day-to-day activities and the passing of the seasons as he sought to scratch out a living alone in the wilderness.
Dick Proenneke spent his first summer in the Twin Lakes region in 1967 scouting out the best cabin site and cutting logs. He returned the next summer to build his cabin, stayed through that winter and the next summer before he returned to Iowa for the winter. Dick hadn’t planned on returning to Twin Lakes, but he changed his mind and returned the next spring and remained at Twin Lakes for 30 years, leaving only occasionally to visit his family. Proenneke built his cabin using only hand tools, no backhoes, no chainsaws, no electric drill, just hand powered tools. Dick even made many of his tools himself. Measuring 11′ by 14′, it had a gravel floor, windows, a dutch door, a fireplace, and a moss covered waterproof roof. He had to build all his own furniture too, chairs, tables, desk and his bunk. He also built a log structure cache high up on stilts to store his food out of the reach of the animals.
In 1999, at age 82, Proenneke returned to civilization and lived the remainder of his life with his brother in California. He passed away on April 20, 2003 at the age of 86 and has since become a legendary figure in Alaska’s modern history. He left his cabin to the National Park Service where it remains a hugely popular visitor attraction in the still-remote Twin Lakes region (to learn more about visiting the cabin CLICK HERE). Due to the incredible success of the first documentary, a brand new follow up has just been released entitled Alone In The Wilderness 2, and it’s airing right now on PBS. I just watched it this morning and it’s terrific. Whereas the first one focused mainly on Proenneke’s construction of his cabin, the new installment follows him through the landscape of the region as he investigates the wildlife and nature of the surrounding environment (on one hike, for example, Proenneke’s pedometer clocked 22 miles in just one day by the time he returned to his cabin). If you don’t have PBS you can always order your own DVD copy of both documentaries by CLICKING HERE. If you haven’t yet seen the first Alone In The Wilderness you can check out the extended clip below, as well as the extended clip from Alone In The Wilderness 2.