Throughout the centuries there have been many individuals who have left civilization behind and ventured deep into the wilderness to make a new life for themselves. For most, especially those of our modern-day, a stay in the wild is relatively short term. Thus, there has always been a fascination with those who trade the comforts and convenience of the “world” for an extended stay in the wilderness, or, who even make that substitution a permanent one.
The stories of those rare individuals who live such lives of wild seclusion often become the subject matter of books, movies, and modern-day legend. Individuals such as Dick Proenneke and Chris McCandless come to mind. Dick, in his 50s, left the “world” behind, built a little cabin in the Alaskan wildness and lived the rest of his life there, mostly alone, but very happy and successful, that is, as the word “success” applies to surviving and truly thriving while living in nature. Chris, on the other hand, was a young man who also ventured alone into the wilds of Alaska for an extended stay, but he tragically starved and died there. Both stories have been made into bestselling books and films. As a side note, I’ve done several videos about Dick and Twin Lakes which you can check out the Wild Revelation Outdoors Youtube channel.
It’s not often that one gets the opportunity to sit down with a someone who essentially lives their life as a hermit in the wilderness and find out what makes them tick, why they chose such a life, and how they actually live it. In the spring of 2008 I was blessed to have such an opportunity. On May 23rd of that year, I was granted permission to visit and interview a Trappist monk and priest who lived as a hermit in the seclusion of the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. If you’d like to read the entire interview, it’s included as the final chapter in my book Wilderness Awakenings.
I first stumbled upon the monk’s old hermitage many years earlier while hiking through the area. It’s located deep in a towering pine forest on a remote mountaintop overlooking the surrounding hills and valleys. During the interview, I learned that this humble, holy man lived in the small shack-like hermitage starting in 1968. In the later years of his life, leading up to his death in 2017 at the age of 92, he took up residence in a small cabin that at least had running water and electricity and was closer to the rest of his monastic community.
I recently made a trip back to the Ozark mountains and I thought I’d see if I could find the old hermitage once again. It had been well over a decade since I’d been there, so my memory was a little foggy as to exactly where it was. However, it all came back to me once I got back in the general area and started to find a trail of old building supplies and left-over items from the hermitage homestead from decades ago. It was a long hike, way up the winding hills into the deeply forested wilderness with many of the old paths and trails now being overgrown and returning to nature. But at last, after several hours of hiking and exploring, I found it…along with the old dilapidated hermitage outhouse.
The hermitage appeared to have been at least someone maintained over the more recent years, perhaps by another of the monks at some point, but there were certainly no signs of any permanent inhabitants…other than wasps, squirrels and maybe a racoon or two. Check out the video below to see more…