In April 1992, seduced by the charm of simplicity and wanting to test his mettle against the wild, Christopher McCandless walked into the Alaskan wilderness. 113 days later, McCandless was dead. He had starved to death in the unrelenting and nigh unspoiled wilderness of the Alaskan summer. I don’t know what it is about this story that always stuck with me, but I think there’s something inside everyone that asks “if I really needed to, if I was all alone and had to live on my muscle and mind alone…would I survive?”
Richard Proenneke was one of those people that decided to find an answer that question. After spending time in the Navy and working as both a fisherman and a mechanic, he retired to the side of Twin Lakes, Alaska. To be clear, by “retired” I mean he moved to an uninhabited and undeveloped location in one of the remotest places on Earth, built a cabin out of trees he’d felled himself using tools he’d also built on-site, and then lived off the land in almost complete solitude for the next thirty years.
Why? His answer was elegant in its simplicity: “To do a thing to completion.” Dying of a stroke in 2003 at the age of 86, I think Proenneke definitively accomplished his goal.
For more information on Richard, or the documentary series this clip is taken from, go to DickProenneke.com