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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Survival reality-TV show ‘Alone’ features Sandpoint woman

In 2015, producers from the History Channel’s “Alone” reality-TV show messaged Karie Lee Knoke, a woman who lives “beyond off the grid” near Sandpoint .

The producers had heard about Knoke from other contestants on the reality TV show that drops men and women into some of the harshest environments on earth with just the basics of survival. So they reached out on Facebook messenger asking if Knoke would apply for Season 3. Unfortunately, what makes for a good contestant on “Alone” isn’t necessarily conducive to prompt social media responses.

“They sent it to my Messenger,” Knoke said. “And I didn’t have Messenger.”

In fact, Knoke didn’t even have a smartphone at the time. By the time she realized they’d asked her, it was too late. She’d missed that round.

That’s not the case this time.

Knoke is one of 10 contestants featured on Season 9 of “Alone,” which debuts Thursday. The season was filmed last year in Labrador, Canada. While Knoke isn’t allowed to talk in detail about how the experience went, she said her lifestyle in North Idaho left her well prepared.

“Even though there were times I was tired, I honestly never felt like I was struggling,” she said. “I thoroughly just really enjoyed my whole time out there.”

Contestants don’t know when others have dropped out, making it both a physical and psychological challenge. Whoever lasts the longest wins. Contestants’ health is checked regularly, though. If they lose too much weight, they can be pulled by the show’s doctors. Or they can choose to tap out at any time. Each contestant is allowed to select 10 items from a preset list. Unlike other reality TV shows, contestants film themselves and have minimal contact with the showrunners. The winner gets a $500,000 grand prize.

Ever since Knoke was 8 years old, she said she’s “wanted to go out and live off nothing but my knife.” The Washington native worked for a decade as a systems analyst consultant in Seattle.

In 1997, she quit that job and, after some travel, moved to the Sandpoint area and started learning the skills it takes to live without many of the luxuries of modern life.

Now, she lives on 40 acres near Coachella, Idaho, and is working on opening a wilderness survival school.

“I live now in a yurt and I’m beyond off-grid,” she said.

“I collect my own rain water, firewood is my only source of heat. I often forage for my food. I hunt for my food. For me, it’s my lifestyle. I’m not a weekend warrior. It’s my daily life.”

She first heard about the TV show from co-workers at the young adult center at which she worked. Friends of hers who also live off the grid or are experts in wilderness survival started going on the show. Another Idaho native, Jordan Jonas, won the sixth season of the show. Like Lee, he said the experience was “a lot of fun.”

According to Lee, thousands of people applied to be on Season 9. Showrunners winnowed that down to 100, who sent in videos. From there, producers selected 20 who went to a survival boot camp. The final 10 were selected from there. Knoke was not the only Idaho resident selected. Benjamin James Hill from Bellevue also made the final cut.

Once selected, Knoke was told where she was going two weeks prior to leaving in mid-September . Knoke couldn’t say how long she was gone nor could she provide many details about what the experience was like.

The location is billed by the History Channel as “one of the harshest weather conditions yet.”

“Enduring wet, snowy, merciless conditions, survivalists’ building ingenuity, mental willpower and overall wilderness skills are put to the test as they must build their own shelters, forage their own food, and overcome numerous obstacles and dangerous predators in hopes of being the last person standing,” according to a show statement.

Knoke said about Labrador: “Labrador is a beautiful place. It’s the most remote location in the history of the ‘Alone’ show,” she said. “It was wild. It had a very powerful essence about it.”