The memory of Dick Proenneke has been a welcome presence this Christmas. I gave Brendan a copy of One Man’s Wilderness, and on Christmas Eve, Ms. M and I watched the PBS documentary based on the book and Dick’s vintage film footage. I’m fascinated by the solo process he developed for documenting his cabin-building in the Alaskan wilderness. Remember, this was forty years ago, long before YouTube enabled anyone with a cell phone camera to become DYI documentarians.
Dick’s footage of brown bears, caribou, and a wolverine triggered stories of my own youthful journey in the Brooks Range, a year after the book was published, before the first road was built across the mountains. That’s where I encountered a wolverine for the first and only time. It was excavating a steep stream bank on an unnamed tributary of the Glacier River, looking for a lunch of lemmings. The wolverine cared not a wit for three curious hikers, even though one carried a 30.40 rifle.
As the video below attests, Dick Proenneke’s cabin still stands in Lake Clark National Park. It’s a simple wilderness shrine to which I someday want to journey.