Resident goes it 'Alone' in History Channel competition
Staff Writer | July 1, 2023 1:00 AM
Imagine going into the wilderness with nothing but a knife, a tarp, two pairs of underwear and a few other miscellaneous items with the sole purpose of seeing how long you can survive. That’s exactly what Sandpoint resident Karie Lee Knoke did, along with nine other participants on the History Channel’s series, “Alone.”
Knoke and the others were dropped in the heart of Labrador, Canada, with one goal: outlast everyone else. The prize? A whopping $500,000 jackpot.
Knoke has loved the outdoors for as long as she can remember, spending her weekends on backpacking or canoe trips with her family. Being on season nine of “Alone” fulfilled her deepest childhood desires that she’s had ever since she read the book, “My Side of the Mountain.”
“Since then, all I wanted to do was go out with nothing but my knife and survive just like [the main character] did,” she said. “So I’ve been kind of preparing to do that all my life.”
This show was the perfect place for her to test her skills, she said. Plenty of safety procedures were set in place to ensure the wellbeing of all the participants – a fact that Knoke said was comforting while she was out there on her own. If something were to really go wrong, she knew she’d be able to get out of the situation.
Knoke had two months to prepare for the challenge, but rather than spend her time hitting the gym, she spent a lot of her time eating. She put on 25 pounds between July 1 and Sept. 1 when she landed in Labrador. Rather than working on making her muscles bigger, Knoke said she focused on retraining her brain on how to better use the muscles she already had.
In addition to working on her physical health, Knoke said those two months were packed with numerous technicalities.
“You think you have two months to read all these books and study on this and do that but really you don’t,” she said. “You have to spend your time closing up loose ends – talking to your boss, you have to quit your job, talk to your family. There’s so much work to do. They say to wipe your calendar clean for six months.”
The producers also keep the participants’ location a secret until a few weeks before departure to make the situation even more challenging.
“They don’t tell you your location,” Knoke said. “They kind of drop hints like, ‘Be prepared for a wet, cold climate,’ so we can buy and get our gear ready. And then about two weeks before we went, they told us our location.”
Before she knew it, Knoke was getting dropped out of a helicopter and suddenly, she was the only one around for miles. It was a real shock to the system, and Knoke said she had just a few minutes to adjust to the silence before she had to kick it into gear and make a shelter before an approaching storm hit.
“You feel so close to all the other participants,” she said. “None of us actually felt like we were competing against each other. We all were helping each other. There was so much camaraderie. Then all of a sudden you’re out there alone and you’re like, ‘Woah. What happened to all my buddies?’”
While the rest of the participants in season nine brought a photo of their loved ones with them – each participant is only allowed one picture – Knoke opted to bring a sticker she got out of a bubble gum machine many years ago that said, “Do Your Dream.”
“I picked that instead of a picture of my family because I didn’t want to look back at what I had left behind,” she said. “I had that sticker to remind me why I was there. I was living my childhood dream that I was living out at 57 years old. And that was really, really helpful because I didn’t have to look back. I didn’t have to think about anybody else. I was there. I was never going to be able to come back to that place and have that opportunity again.”
Knoke stayed in the wilderness of Labrador for an impressive 75 days before she finally decided to end her journey. Little did she know, she was in second place. Thinking she was in fourth the whole time, Knoke said she may have stayed out a few more days if she had known she was doing so well. However, with her health declining as rapidly as her food sources, she would have been pulled out of the challenge by the producers regardless before she caused serious damage to her body.
Around day 60, Knoke had seriously considered going home because she felt she was doing so well and wanted to go out on a high note.
“I had such a great experience,” she said. “I’m in my shelter and I’ve got food and I’m warm and cozy and there’s a blizzard outside and I don’t care because I’m thriving. I satisfied my childhood dream; I’m doing great. I could leave now and be totally satisfied. And then I kind of had this retaliation period. I slept on it and the next morning I realized, ‘Wait, I haven’t given it my all. I’m not done yet.’”
Two weeks and another blizzard later, Knoke’s food was dwindling and her blood pressure was dangerously low. She knew the producers would leave her out there as long as they possibly could, but Knoke knew that she had given her all and was ready to go home.
“My heart, my soul, everything in me wanted to be there, but my body was done,” she said. “I knew at that point all I was doing was killing myself.”
Although she didn’t win, Knoke described her entire experience as “euphoric” and said she would do it again in a heartbeat.
Now that she’s back in Sandpoint, Knoke has focused all her attention on her Sacred Cedars Wilderness School – found online at www.karieleeknoke.com – that she runs on her property. Her goal is to help adults better connect with the land around them.
“It’s about how we live in the natural world in a sacred way but also how we create relationships with nature and with each other and how we take these skills back into a modern life and live with gratitude and reciprocity in our regular life,” she said.
Knoke offers classes for everyone, from the super-experienced to those who have never been in the woods before. While she plans to offer some family and children’s classes, her sole focus is on adults.
“There are a lot of wilderness schools out there focused on the kids,” she said. “I’m looking at the big kids. My goal is primarily to have adults be able to disconnect and reconnect: reconnect with nature and disconnect from the screens. You always hear people be like, ‘Get those kids off the screens.’ But what about the adults?”
Some of Knoke’s classes are just a few hours long while others run for a week. She hopes to have a yearlong program begun by 2024 that teaches the deeper meaning of connectivity.