I just finished a book titled One Man’s Wilderness. It’s the story of a man named Richard Proenneke who retired at age 50 in 1967 and decided to build his own log cabin on the shores of Twin Lakes, Alaska. The first summer he scouted for the best cabin site and cut and peeled by hand, the logs he would need for his cabin. Dick Proenneke returned the next summer to finish the cabin where he lived for more than 30 years. He built the cabin using only hand tools, many of which Proenneke himself had fashioned. Throughout the thirty years that he lived at the cabin, Proenneke created homemade furniture and implements that reflected his woodworking genius. Proenneke also wrote voraciously and filled volumes with his copious journal entries. One Man’s Wilderness offers a highlight of the first year’s journal entries as edited by Proenneke’s friend Sam Keith. Proenneke wanted readers of his journal entries to find enough information that they could build their own cabin with nothing but hand tools. One Man’s Wilderness delivers on that promise.
Rather than give an in depth review of the book, I’ll just say that it’s a nice escape from the fast pace of today’s world. It’s not a difficult read, but it’s a good story all the same. If you’ve ever dreamed of building your own cabin by hand, on the shores of a quiet lake surrounded by majestic peaks, then this book is for you.
Richard Proenneke also filmed his adventures with a 16 mm Bolex camera. Bob Swerer productions later edited the film and produced three movies. I had an opportunity to watch the first film, Alone in the Wilderness, which is basically the audio-visual companion of the aforementioned book. It was a real treat to watch Richard Proenneke craft a really beautiful home entirely by hand. Most major book stores carry the book, but you can order both the book and the movie at www.dickproenneke.com.
This story doesn’t have anything to do with Europe or with hiking the Alps, but it does appeal to mountain enthusiasts. A passage from the book reminded me of the many reasons that we enjoy guiding people in the mountainous regions of the world.
“I had taken a long look into the heart of the high places and felt like a man inspired by a sermon that came to me firsthand, that came out of the sky and the many moods of the mountains.”