Survivalist, Wilderness School Founder and ‘Alone’ Cast Member By Jillian Chandler | Photo by Troxell Media
Karie Lee Knoke comes from a long line of pioneers. Her great great great grandfather, who was a scout on the Oregon Trail, homesteaded with his pregnant wife in the Pacific Northwest Territories in 1839—near what is now Goldendale, Washington. Karie was born in Richland, Washington, the daughter of an inspiring engineer at Hanford. Her grandparents lived in Cocolalla, Idaho, where Karie often visited as a child.
It would be the beauty of the wildness that called her to leave the corporate world of Seattle to settle in North Idaho nearly 30 years ago, where she would go on to found Sacred Cedars Wilderness School.
In 2022, Karie would use her honed wilderness skills to be cast in the ninth season of the History Channel’s “Alone.”
Q. What inspired your love of the wilderness?
A. I have always loved being out in the woods. It is my happy place. It’s where I have grown the most because you are dealing with natural elements on nature’s terms and not your own. It gets you outside of yourself and propels growth.
Q. What called you to part ways with Seattle and the corporate world to move to Sandpoint?
A. One afternoon, in 1993, as I was sitting in rush-hour traffic on I-5 in Seattle, I noticed that the smog, which typically rolled in and out, was not leaving, and all the car pollution. At that moment, I knew I had to leave, as I promised myself as a child never to live in a polluted city. I had to go.
I was miserable in my corporate career world and longed to get back into nature and be able to have a community of like-minded folks who enjoy the mountains as much as I do. I typically spent my weekends venturing into the Cascade Mountains to go backpacking, so I decided that I wanted to quit being a weekend warrior and move to the mountains to be full-time immersed in nature and live off the land.
Q. You currently teach wilderness and primitive living skills through Sacred Cedars Wilderness School, which you founded. What can your students hope to learn?
A. Sacred Cedars is not just your ordinary wilderness school. You will discover the skills of primitive wilderness survival and nature connection. We bring in the soft skills of survival as well. How TO BE in the woods, not just how TO DO in the woods. Connecting to the land in a way that shares reciprocity and gratitude.
Q. You were one of 10 survivalists to make the cut to be cast in the History Channel’s ninth season of “Alone.” What drew you to want to be a part of the show, and how did the selection process work?
A. I first heard of the show after Season 2, when my friends Nicole Apelian and Jose Amoedo were on it.
I was initially contacted for Season 3 through Facebook Messenger, but I only had a flip phone at the time and didn’t get the message until too late. I applied for Season 6, sent in casting videos, and I made it into the top 100 who then get sent to the History Channel executives for review. When I didn’t make the cut, I chose to do my own “Alone” show and head into the Bitterroot Mountains for six weeks using my handmade primitive gear, eating 100 percent wild foods, and filmed myself doing it. Many of these videos were used for my casting cut for Season 9. The executives loved it! I made the cut for Season 9! From here, your survival skills are tested, and extensive medical, psychological and background checks are done. The finalists chosen fit the show’s demographics, and I filled the female primitive skills role.
Q. What were your first thoughts after hearing you were selected to participate? And how did you prepare for the journey you were about to embark on?
A. I was anxious, excited, and relieved! The thing is, I had just purchased 12.7 acres of land for the Wilderness School. Then the show contacted me two weeks later and asked me to apply again. My first thought was, “Now?” But grateful to finally make it on the show! I then began training with a trainer, Kenny Markwardt from Sandpoint Strength.
Q. Is there anything you discovered about yourself while being “alone” out in the wilderness?
A. It's funny how we B-rate ourselves as not being good enough. I felt I wasn’t a good enough huntress because I was missing a lot of squirrel shots, only to find out that everyone has trouble hitting those dang squirrels! Ha-ha! I was humbled.
Q. What do you enjoy doing in your downtime?
A. I love crafting and making things with natural materials. Even while watching a movie, I’ll be sewing on my buckskin. I also make wild-crafted healing remedies that I sell and use in my energy work practice. I love foraging for my food and medicines and hunting for the meat that sustains my body. And, of course, anything that allows me to be outside.
Q. What do you enjoy most about living in Sandpoint and being part of the community?
A. The incredible thing about Sandpoint is that there really is a community here. People know who you are and genuinely care about your well-being. It’s a small town where you are surrounded by friends who also love the outdoors. It’s not hard to find someone to go “play,” whether for a hike, ski, fish or paddle. Folks here don’t just come here to work.
Q. Is there anything that people might find surprising to know about Karie Lee Knoke?
A. Most people would never believe that I used to be a systems analyst consultant, where I worked for companies such as Microsoft and Pemco Insurance. I wore an IBM pin-striped suit with nylons and heels and carried a leather briefcase. I still have that suit for proof. I am so grateful that I listened to my inner child and followed my dreams!
Q. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
A. Do your dream! Life is short; be authentically you, find your passion, and don’t settle for mediocrity.