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Alone in The Wilderness.avi

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smaller file version of Alone in the Wilderness in avi format. The DVD version is here.

In 1999, at age 82, Proenneke decided to come back to civilization for good. The -50 °F degree (-46 °C) winters had become too much for his aged body to cope with and he returned to live the remainder of his life with his brother in California.

Proenneke was a wonderful journalist and recorded most of his life at Twin Lakes in film, photography, and written record. His earthquake reports helped scientists in civilization learn how seismic waves travel through the immense mountain ranges of Alaska. His recording of animal and hunter habits helped scientists realize how hunting affects wild animal populations.[citation needed]

Proenneke died of a stroke April 28, 2003. He left his cabin to the parks service and it remains today as a popular visitor attraction in the still-remote Twin Lakes region.

In 2005, some of Proenneke's film, Alone in the Wilderness, began appearing on U.S. Public Television. Primarily, the film consists of shots of Proenneke performing tasks around his cabin, canoeing and walking, and views of wildlife, along with narration. For shots of himself (since he was alone), Proenneke fixed the camera in place, and then performed his tasks. This would necessitate him returning to the camera after walking or canoeing away.

Also in 2005, the National Park Service and the Alaska Natural History Association published More Readings From One Man's Wilderness, another volume of Proenneke's journal entries. The book, edited by longtime Lake Clark National Park employee and friend-of-Proenneke John Branson, covers the years when the Park was established. The journal entries show that Proenneke's feelings about wilderness and the Park Service were complex and can't be summed up in phrases like "not a bunny hugger."

Dick Proenneke started his adventure to Alaska by driving his camper north. In a Nebraska town he bought a felt-tipped marker and on the back of his camper printed in big letters, "DESTINATION—BACK AND BEYOND." On May 21, 1968, Proenneke arrived at his new place of retirement at Twin Lakes. Before arriving at the lakes, he made arrangements to use a cabin on the upper lake of Twin Lakes owned by a retired Navy captain, Spike Carrithers, and his wife Hope from Kodiak, (in whose care he had left his camper). This cabin was well situated on the lake and close to the site which Proenneke chose for the construction of his own cabin.

Proenneke spent May, June, and July of 1968 building his cabin by hand and with nothing but hand tools. The cabin was complete with windows, one of which was designed and built of PET film by Proenneke himself to face the lake and not fog up. He also built furniture including chairs, tables, a desk, and a bunk; a log cache built up on poles to store food and goods that needed to be kept away from wildlife; a stone and mortar fireplace; and many decorations such as a plaster of paris wolf track and moose and caribou antler decorations.

Proenneke's bush pilot friend, Babe Alsworth, returned occasionally to bring food and orders that Proenneke placed through him to Sears. While Proenneke lived largely off the land, he enjoyed things like red beans, bacon, and seasonings, all of which he proclaimed to be life's real luxuries.

Several times during his life at Twin Lakes, Proenneke was bluff charged or in danger from brown bears. He also became quite adept at taming animals, befriending many squirrels (all of which he named "Freddy", a weasel, many birds, and (almost) a wolverine.

Proenneke remained at Twin Lakes for the next 16 months, when he left to go home for a spell to visit relatives and secure more supplies. He returned to the lakes in the following spring and remained there for most of the next 30 years, coming to the lower 48 only occasionally to be with his family, for whom he cared a great deal.

As is common among Alaskans, Proenneke was always searching for gold; as evidenced by the pan attached to his backpack and cabin in pictures of the same. He did indeed find some gold—see his second set of journals—however, he never found the mother lode he was searching for.

From film website:
Alone in the Wilderness on DVD and VHS tape
Dick Proenneke retired at age 50 in 1967 and decided to build his own cabin on the shore of Twin Lakes. The first summer he scouted for the best cabin site, and cut and peeled the logs he would need for his cabin. Dick Proenneke returned the next summer to finish the cabin where he lived for over 30 years. Dick filmed his adventures, and Bob Swerer later turned the film into a video so we can all watch this amazing man build his cabin by hand.
Dick 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. With insights on everything ranging from survival in the wilderness to an acceptance of man's place in the cosmos, the "experiment" of Richard Proenneke is best described as poetry.

To live in a pristine land unchanged by man...
to roam a wilderness through which few other humans have passed...
to choose an idyllic site, cut trees and build a log cabin...
to be a self-sufficient craftsman, making what is needed from materials available...
to be not at odds with the world, but content with one's own thoughts and company...

Thousands have had such dreams, but Dick Proenneke lived them. He found a place, built a cabin, and stayed to become part of the country. This video "Alone in the Wilderness" is a simple account of the day-to-day explorations and activities he carried out alone, and the constant chain of nature's events that kept him company.