New book details iconic Alaskan

The Handcrafted Life of Dick Proenneke (written by Monroe Robinson and published by Lost Art Press, 2021) is a lavish book that should be subtitled: “The Bible of Wilderness Cabin Craft,” a must-reference for every rural and wilderness dweller or dreamer.

Dick Proenneke’s life and legacy, documented in his book, One Man’s Wilderness, and subsequent documentaries, is a vivid testament to the wilderness lifestyle. For 19 summers, Monroe Robinson and his wife, Kay, acted as caretakers for Proenneke’s Twin Lakes cabin. They studied, recorded, and documented the construction and tools Proenneke used in building his cabin, cache, furniture, and implements. 

Dick Proenneke in the Dutch door he built in 1968. 

Robinson came to Alaska in 1968 and soon established himself as a log craftsman and cabinet maker of the highest order, building for former Gov. Jay Hammond and others. Robinson met Proenneke in 1982 unaware of how entwined their lives and work would become. As caretaker for the cabin site in Lake Clark National Park, Robinson, with the help of John Branson, restored the roof of Dick’s cabin and woodshed in 2000. Three years later, he replaced the rotted bottom logs of the cabin and woodshed, and restored the roof of the cache. As Dick’s handcrafted artifacts became too old to be left outside, or were deemed too precious to leave at the cabin, the author made replicas as needed, giving him a unique perspective on their fabrication. 

When Proenneke died at 86 in 2003, he left behind nearly 7,000 pages of journal entries from which the author selected only the most relevant and important details to tell the story of Proenneke’s wilderness life. Through contemporary and historic photos, precisely detailed sketches by Elin Price, and journal entries, this book commemorates an iconic figure in Alaskan lore and wilderness life, while at the same time documenting the fading art of handcrafting. 


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