In the year 1968, a sturdy hunter and a mechanic picked up his basic necessities and walked into the wild. Richard Dick Proenneke was only 52 years old when he decided that he would not waste his life in the hustle-bustle of the city, but live among nature in the Alaskan wilderness.
Proenneke chose a serene spot near Lake Clark, which has now been transformed into a national park. He built himself a humble 12 by 16 ft cabin made out of naturally sourced materials, like stones, moss, and trees from the nearby area.
He knew, from this point on, his life would have a different meaning. He could sense the importance of his decision, and so, he picked up his tiny camera and started documenting his journey. Without any network connectivity, running water, or electricity, he took the support of his local friends to get supplies.
Although he lived a solitary life, he did not stop communicating. He wrote letters and hiked for miles.
Richard Dick Proenneke ponders on man’s desire for material wealth in his autobiographical book, One Man’s Wilderness. He believes that the material wealth only weighs one down, and the way to true happiness is little things in life. The wonders of nature can never be replaced by material comfort.
The Alaskan wilderness has become his home.
Once Proenneke walked into the Alaskan wilderness, he accepted himself completely for who he was. He constantly wrote down what he did and saw during his days of happy slumber. He was very well aware of how desire only expands and expands to the extent that it devours any chance of true happiness.
Although he was a hunter, he never hunted for pleasure. He only took what he needed. And often, even scavenged for carcasses that other game hunters left behind.
His autobiographical book, One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey, was first published posthumously in the year 1973 by his close friend. The videos he shot of himself using his tiny camera too gained a larger audience, as it was made into a documentary.
Dick Proenneke left the Alaskan Wilderness in 1999 and died four years later in 2003. He moved to California, into his brother’s home, and left the lakeside cabin in the trust of the National Park Service. The cabin still exists and is open to visitors during summer. It has also been added to the list of historical sites by the National Register of Historic Places.
Proenneke symbolizes a man of conviction and grit, as he has become an icon for environmental activists. The cold weather of the Alaskan wilderness could not darken this man’s twinkling eyes. It only added to the courage and tenacity Proenneke possessed.
The Lake Clark National Park and Preserve was a perfect place for this solitary man with a simple heart. He teaches us the value of simple living in the time of excess.
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Image Credit: Richard Proenneke and Raymond Proenneke