This weekend I saw an interesting video called "Alone in the Wilderness". It told the story of Richard Proenneke and how at age 51 he went to a remote location in Alaska, built a log cabin out of hand tools and survived/lived there alone for the next 30 years.
If the year had been 1810 we probably would have counted Mr. Proenneke in the ranks of the 'mountain men'.
It seems it takes a very special type of individual to willingly live a solitary existence. Usually we associate the term 'hermit' with misanthropy (not liking people - think Ted 'unibomber' Kaczinski), but it occurs to me there are different shades of solitary existence. There are religious hermits - folks who feel they must live atop the mountain to contemplate their place in the universe without the distraction of living within the context of a society. Then there are folks who choose to live more or less solitary existences through their vocation (lighthouse keeper, 'mountain man' fur trapper, Maytag repairman... ).
Richard Proenneke, as I understand, was a very skilled diesel mechanic by trade and managed to save up a tidy nest egg which he used for purchasing what he called 'luxuries' (coffee, bacon and pancake mix). Otherwise, he relied solely on the fruits of his own labor and could have survived without spending any money, had he chose. He built his own cabin using about 8 or 9 hand tools (he carved some of the handles himself, though), constructed his own furniture, eating utensils, outhouse, garden, in-ground refrigerator/freezer. The man was extremely resourceful and intelligent, yet he decided to more or less drop out of 'civilization'. He himself stated he did this "so as to test himself against the forces of nature" and originally set out to do this for a year. He ended up spending the next 30 alone in the wilderness.
At some level I can relate to Mr. Proenneke's impulses. I understand the deeply spiritual feeling one gets while being alone with nature. I relish time away from the busy little chipmunks who so often surround me in society. While I am by nature an introvert, I still acknowlege that I require human interaction and would probably suffer living a solitary existence for an entire year, much less 30. On a pragmatic level I must concede that while I would probably do fairly well in the hunting/gardening department (I'm allergic to fish and would lose an important dietary source) and could eat well enough to survive, my construction skills are sadly lacking and lack the knowlege to construct a shelter adequate to sustain me through an Alaskan winter.
Do you think you could survive alone in the wilderness for a year? If not what would ultimately do you in....starvation? Exposure to the elements? Social isolation?
Lastly, how come you never hear about female hermits? I see no reason why a woman couldn't survive alone. No reason a woman couldn't possess the knowlege or ability to build a shelter, shoot a rifle, fish, or grow food.