Friday, August 6, 2010

Alone in the Wilderness: Dick Proenneke Cabin-Building Film on PBS

I live in a waterfront house with shoreline fences to stop the locals from using my beach. "You kids keep off my sand lawn!"

So if there's one thing I really enjoy - aside from maintaining vigil on my back porch with a shotgun loaded with rock-salt - it's a show about a cabin-building hermit living lakeside in the middle of nowhere on the last frontier.

PBS patrons and insomniac late-night TV surfers will be familiar with Alone in the Wilderness, the story of Dick Proenneke's self-built cabin project on the shores of Twin Lakes, Alaska during the late 1960s:

In addition to being incredibly fit and strong for a man his age, Dick was very clever and intelligent. His self-movie skills were genius for the era; he was indeed a director before his time. Film clips he recorded 50 years ago are on par with many how-to videos on YouTube today, like carving door hinges out of tree trunk roots and crafting interlocking wooden parts for a bear-proof cabin door lock. Bears!

I wouldn't be surprised if present day TV woodsman Les Stroud credited Proenneke as a major inspiration for his own Survivorman production. And also stole some of his ideas and techniques, obviously. Kidding! Les is best.

Make no mistake, Les Stroud is indeed the real deal. After all, Survivorman is the only real thing keeping the OLN network afloat in a sea of cheap paranormal and re-enacted BS. Ghost Hunters, really? UFO Hunters, really? Operation Repo, really? Mantracker, rea- OK yes it's staged like the others but at least it's entertaining: "Mantracker almost always gets 'em in the end!"

Proenneke's end came April 28, 2003 - six days after viewing the final cut of his PBS bio-pic - but he continues to live on through the films he left behind.

His cabin is still standing today, including spice jars left on a kitchen shelf: (H/T dcmorga)

Want to learn more? Visit the National Park Service web page Proenneke's Cabin.

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