Alone in the Wilderness – The Story of Dick Proenneke

I got an email from a reader named Betsy (Thanks Again Betsy!) the other day after she had read about my upcoming nine tiny free project. Along with her note she sent a link to a movie about a man named Dick Proenneke. You may already know his story but I’ll summarize it below for those, like me, who had never heard of him before. But first watch this short version of the movie Alone in the Wilderness (2005). It’s about 9 minutes.

In his 50’s Dick Proenneke decided to spend some of his retirement in the wilderness. He chose a place called Twin Lakes in Alaska and in 1968 built a log cabin using nothing but hand tools. It was about 11′ by 15′. It had glass windows, hand-made wood door hinges, and hand-made furniture including a desk, chairs, bunk, and tables. He even built a stone and mortar fireplace to make it through the cold Alaskan winters.

Initially he planned to stay only a year or so but ended up staying 30 years. From time to time he’d travel back to civilization to spend time with family but continued to call his remote cabin home. In 1995 at age 82 he decided that the -50 °F winters were just too much and decided to live out the rest of his life with his brother in California. Dick Proenneke died on April 28, 2003 and left his cabin to the park service who now maintains it as a historic site and popular visitor attraction.

He also documented his life in film, photography, and writings. When filming himself he’d place the camera in a secure spot while he performed the task he wanted to record. This meant he also captured clips of himself walking and canoeing to and from the camera.

I realize this post is a bit off topic, except for the cabin and lifestyle, but I thought I’d share it with you on this first weekend in November. It’s a really inspiring story and stories like these can really help when times seem like they are getting tough. Don’t you think?

Photo credit to the Park Service.

Small Cabin Website

I recently ran across a website called Our Small Cabin. If you’re a do-it-yourself cabin builder or want to be, this is definitely a website to spend some time reading. It’s filled with good information about lessons learned while building a tiny off-the-grid cabin. The website includes everything you’d want to know from finding and buying the land to building the cabin, to setting up the off-the-grid power system. Photo credit Our Small Cabin.

Coyote Cottage

This is my 100th post on Tiny House Design and I wanted it to be on a good story. It’s the story of a family in north central Washington living in a tiny house on 15 off-the-grid acres. The story begins in 2003 when Jan, Sonja, and Bjørn buy their land and begin construction of their 16′ by 16′ cabin. The total interior space is 400 square feet including the loft. The house took about 6 months and just over $6000 to build.

The entire construction story is online on their website and they have posted dozens of great photos and provide a lot of information about living off-the-grid to building their tiny house. They even describe what it’s like happily living with a humanure toilet and a solar well.

Not everyone would choose to live the way this family does, but it’s stories like this that help us all imagine what’s possible. I think it also shows us how our dreams really are within reach if we simply make the required choices and stay positive and proactive. If you’re considering a lifestyle change like this one, or simply want to imagine one, you could spend hours on their website and have an excellent idea of what it takes, how hard it is, and how rewarding it can be.

In the years since settling in they have added on a little, about 200 square feet and have built a workshop for their little boat building shop. But for the most part they still live just as simply. This is an incredibly inspiring story… visit

Photo credit Jan, Sonja, and Bjørn.