A craftsman alone in the Alaskan wilderness

Monroe with Dick’s bunkbed ladder and sawbuck. Photo by Elan Robinson.

Monroe with Dick’s bunkbed ladder and sawbuck. Elan Robinson (via the author)

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Dick Proenneke moved to Twin Lakes, Alaska in 1968. He built a tiny, impeccably crafted log cabin by hand, and he lived there alone for the next 30 years. It was incredibly isolated and incredibly cold, but he became a kind of living legend for the lifestyle he carved out for himself, thanks in part to the video record he made of his life in the woods, which was eventually edited into the 2004 PBS documentary "Alone in the Wilderness." After his death, the National Park Service decided to preserve the cabin and everything in it – which was a challenge, because nothing lasts long in the Alaskan wilderness.

Enter Monroe Robinson. The 75-year-old Robinson is a master craftsman known for not only for his fine furniture as well as wood construction. For 19 summers he repaired all of Dick’s handcraft, painstakingly reproducing everything Dick made, down to the patina on Dick’s ax. Robinson’s book, “The Handcrafted Life of Dick Proenneke,” documents his work alongside photos and journals of a man Robinson says he feels a great responsibility and joy to share with us.