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One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey - Sam Keith and Richard Proenneke New softcover book


Richard Louis "Dick" Proenneke (May 4, 1916–April 28, 2003) was a naturalist who lived alone in the high mountains of Alaska at Twin Lakes. Living in a log cabin he constructed by hand, Proenneke made valuable recordings of both meteorological and natural data. Proenneke served in the United States Navy as a carpenter during World War II. It was during this service that he contracted rheumatic fever and was bedridden for nearly six months. According to Sam Keith, a life-long friend from Duxbury, Massachusetts, this illness was very revealing for Proenneke, who decided to devote the rest of his life to the strength and health of his body. Following his discharge from the Navy, Proenneke went to school to become a diesel mechanic. The combination of his high intelligence, unique adaptability, and strong work ethic turned him into a very skilled mechanic. Though quite adept at his trade, Proenneke succumbed to the call of nature within him and moved to Oregon to work at a sheep ranch. He moved to Shuyak Island, Alaska in 1950.

For several years he worked as a heavy equipment operator and repairman on the naval base at Kodiak. Proenneke spent the next several years working throughout the state of Alaska as both a salmon fisherman and diesel mechanic. He worked for the Fish and Wildlife Service at King Salmon on the Alaska Peninsula. His skills as a mechanic were well-known and extremely sought after, and he was able to put away a modest nest egg for retirement. Proenneke retired to Twin Lakes in May 1968.

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. This cabin was well situated on the lake and close to the site which Proenneke chose for the construction of his own cabin, which he built using only hand tools. Proenneke's bush pilot friend, Babe Alsworth, returned occasionally to bring food and orders that Proenneke placed through him to Sears.

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. In 1999, at age 82, Proenneke returned to civilization and lived the remainder of his life with his brother in California. He died of a stroke April 28, 2003 at the age of 86. He left his cabin to the parks service and it remains today as a popular visitor attraction in the still-remote Twin Lakes region.

Sam Keith was an American author. His most notable work was the 1973 best seller One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey which he co-authored from the journals and photographs of Richard Proenneke's solo experiences in Alaska.

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One Man's Wilderness by Sam Keith from the journals and photographs of Richard Proenneke

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