He joined the armed forces right after Pearl Harbor, but didn't serve very long due to a series of injuries and illnesses. However, he was a mechanical genius, so he had little problem making a living both in Iowa and in Alaska.
He was a key player in calling for wilderness preservation during the late 70s and early 80s. The subject of the rather popular PBS program "One Man's Wilderness", which features his own footage from 1974 and more recent footage (ca. 1998), he's become a somewhat famous figure.