Alaska's Golden Spoon - Heirloom Sourdough Starter
Raven About Alaska!
(because that's what I do)
One Man's Wilderness - Our connection to Dick Proenneke

Dick Proenneke Loved This Sourdough!

In 1968 a small Cessna dropped a man on the edge of a remote lake deep within the interior of Alaska. He methodically set about crafting the trees of the nearby woods into a home. Sawdust grew thick below his feet as walls of stacked logs rose - one man's castle, in one man's wilderness.

Most people have seen the film of him building this cabin on Public Television - they may not know his name, but they know the grace and beauty of his work, and find peace in observing his life of solitude.

Dick Proenneke was retiring, or rather that is what he called his self imposed exile at 52 years old. He planned on hunting and fishing as much as possible; to search the hillsides for wild plants and to supplement this natural garden with a humble garden of his own. He wanted to live in the Spirit of the Woodsman and live as simply as possible.

Babe Alsworth, a local bush pilot had flown Dick and his supplies to the new building site. His wife Mary had sent caribou sandwiches, but she had also sent something far more important; she had given Dick some of her sourdough starter.

He lovingly guarded the small pot of sourdough over the rough trail to Twin Lakes; knowing it represented not only a profound friendship, but the basis to most of the meals in the upcoming year, if not the rest of his life.

In 1944 Babe and Mary Alsworth homesteaded in a cove of the Lake Clark region, a wild country 170 miles due west of Anchorage. Hardenburg Bay soon became known as Port Alsworth, as the secluded spot became a refuge for stranded travelers and the reputation of the Alsworths' famous hospitality spread.

When Mary gave Dick a jar containing some of her ageless sourdough starter, it was in the first load of gear he carried on his back to the spot he had chosen to build a log cabin. For the next thirty years Dick made the mountains, the valleys, the streams of the Twin Lakes his home.

From those first days, until he left the area in his eighties, his sourdough pot was a key to not only his survival, but a source of great joy.

Tracking this sourdough back through history has personally brought me great joy, and from the letters I have received since starting this project, it is bringing others much pleasure as well!

As the book project proceeds I have found that our beloved Alaska governor Jay Hammond often visited Dick Proenneke and thus likely shared in this sourdough starter.

John Denver also visited Dick on his trips to Alaska and since this songwriter's words inspired me to come north, I am thrilled to be finding a connection to my sourdough starter!

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