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Dick Proenneke question.

Discussion in 'Wilderness & Survival Skills' started by PropThePolecat, Dec 27, 2009.

  1. PropThePolecat


    Jan 31, 2009
    Hey guys.

    Hope you all had a great christmas!

    I got a question about Dick Proenneke. The guy retired at age 50 in 1967 and decided to build his own cabin on the shore of Twin Lakes and stayed there for next 30-something years. I goggled Twin Lakes and apparently its inside the Lake Clark National Park.

    Did he own the piece of land where he built his cabin or did he just pick a spot in the national park?

    Ive always thought about how he managed to stay for so long in a nature reserve without somebody coming and throwing him out. Lake Clark National Park wasnt established untill 1980. But still, i dont think anybody can walk out in the wilderness, pick a spot and build a home. Especially not in this day and age. Was it any different in '67?

    Anybody know how the story goes?

    Thanks in advance.

    WILLIAM.M Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 14, 2006
  3. Zombie Zeke

    Zombie Zeke

    Nov 26, 2006
    If you have a friend thats a bush pilot and are willing to keep a low profile, Alaska is the place to drop off the grid even in this day and age. You can be invisible with a full shelter pretty easily to the average eye and even starve to death on a well used game trail or be an elite World Champion Fighter and die of dehydration just miles from towns on vision quests to test your metal...(See Evan Tanner and Chris McAndless)

    I think the answer to your question goes back to a notion that alot of Older Rangers have which is leave well enough alone, if you are not a direct threat to environment, people or self then find your own path.
  4. PropThePolecat


    Jan 31, 2009
    The link dosent say anything about who owned the spot or where the cabin was located. Copy/paste from the site:

    Early Years: Dick Proenneke retired in 1967. He spent the summer scouting the best location to build a cabin at Twin Lakes and cutting the logs that he would use to build his cabin the next year. In the fall he returned to Iowa where he spent the winter preparing for his adventure in Alaska.

    Building the Cabin: Dick Proenneke retired from his diesel machanic career in 1967. He spent that summer exploring the Twin Lakes region looking for the ideal site to build a cabin and cutting logs that he would use the next year.

    Dick Proenneke returned to Twin Lakes on May 21, 1968 and began turning the raw logs into his cabin. He stayed in Spike's cabin during the construction.

    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.

    Dick's cabin measured 11' by 14'. It had a gravel floor, windows, a dutch door, a fireplace, and a moss covered waterproof roof. He had to build all his own furniture too, chairs, tables, desk and his bunk. He also built a cache to store his food out of the reach of the animals.

    Am i missing something?
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2009
  5. Tye Possum

    Tye Possum

    Nov 16, 2009
    There was some sort of land claim thing back then I think. I don't think it was really wanted anymore so they stopped it sometime after he had moved in. I remember hearing something about people wanting him to get out, but he had already been living there for a while so he ended up being aloud to stay. I have no idea where I heard any of this and might be wrong on a lot of it but that's what I think happened.
  6. PropThePolecat


    Jan 31, 2009
    Youre right, it dosent take much to disappear from the rest of the world if thats what you want.

    Ive just always thought that the second you get spotted youre gonna get kicked out by the owner, rangers, goverment or whoever owns/supervises that spot.

    On another note...I need myself a bushpilot friend :D
  7. alex


    Oct 12, 1998
    Not Alaska but an example from my own experience:

    Before the National Park Service took over and created the Big Cypress Swamp Preserve in the huge portion of the South Florida Everglades outside the Everglades National Park boundaries there were many squatter hunting camps thorughout what is today the Big Cypress Preserve. Almost all the camps required access by swamp buggies during the fall hunting season which is usually very wet. Most camps were usually built during the dry season after hunting season was over (January through April). One small camp we built ourselves in 1968 and used for quite a few years until the Big Cypress preserve was created and the camp demolished years later. The camps were built wherever you wanted and could get building materials out to the site through whatever means necessary. I would guess there were at least a hundred or more camps out there in the late 60's through the 70's. Once the NPS takeover was completed the squatter camps were given if I remember correctly several years to remove all of their belongings and most of the camps were then burned to the ground by the NPS.

    Some people actually owned small pieces of property within the Big Cypress Preserve where their hunting camps were built and were legally allowed to remain after winning court battles with the NPS. Some of those that did not sell their property to the NPS still remain with camps today but must be kept up by their owners and not allowed to deteriorate. They also must comply with many NPS regulations such as not being allowed to build additions to the camp without going through impossible red tape or not being able to sell other than to the National Park Service, etc.

    I don't doubt that when Dick Proenekke built his place the same lack of enforcement was in place but I guarantee you the Park Service would not allow any squatter construction anywhere in their park system today.
  8. Diomedes Industries

    Diomedes Industries KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 19, 2007
    From Wiki:

    "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). In Alaska Solitude and Silence, it was known as "the trapper's cabin." This cabin was well situated on the lake and close to the site which Proenneke chose for the construction of his own cabin. 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."

    He may have simply lived on his buddies land...

  9. Dannyboy Leather

    Dannyboy Leather

    Nov 7, 2004
    Post expired.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2010
  10. jw2n


    Sep 22, 2009
    Homestead Act? Common enough in Alaska until the mid seventies.
  11. Zombie Zeke

    Zombie Zeke

    Nov 26, 2006

    Think about this: National Parks are beloved places for multi-million dollar pot farms why is that?

    My guess is for the same reason that ol' Dick decided to cop a squat where he did...less people, less society and less rules of governance by virtue of being out of the way. It's alot like the state troopers of Alaska or Nevada they let alot of "no harm" "crimes" due to a distinctly higher quotient of common sense than that of urban law enforcement.

    As to the Bushpilot...don't we all ; )
  12. Diomedes Industries

    Diomedes Industries KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 19, 2007
    That is so friggin' cool.

  13. Pritch


    May 3, 2006
    The area was not a part of the National Park system when Dick built there. There were other cabins around the lake, including an outfitting business. Nobody elses stayed year round, though.
  14. DWK2


    Nov 3, 2003
    I visited the ranger's cabin on the lower lake before rafting the Chilikadrotna River but, sadly, it was way too windy to row up to Dick's cabin. Pretty area with lots of wildlife.


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