He introduced sea kayaking to the Upper Midwest, climbed to the top of Mount McKinley and loved it all.
As a high school student, Andy Knapp biked 1,500 miles around Lake Superior. That was the start of a life in which he climbed the tall, hiked across wildernesses, introduced the sport of sea kayaking to the Upper Midwest and biked from Minnesota to Alaska.
"He was a world-class traveler with a drive for passion and adventure," said friend Tracy Fredin, who worked with Knapp at Midwest Mountaineering and teaches in the Center for Global Environmental Education at Hamline University in St. Paul.
Knapp, 61, was diagnosed with kidney cancer six years ago, but remained active until February, when he underwent a bone marrow transplant. He died Monday at his Minneapolis home, said his wife of 25 years, Denise Dohrmann.
Born in Mankato, Knapp graduated from Alexander Ramsey High School in Roseville. He earned a bachelor's degree in European history from the University of Minnesota, where he got involved in the Minnesota Rovers Outdoor Club. He was past president of the organization, which offers hiking, biking, canoeing, climbing, skiing, snowshoeing, camping and sight-seeing outings.
Knapp often set off on his own, including a 2,655-mile bike ride to Alaska he took in 1967 and, despite being sick, repeated in 2007. He backpacked 500 miles through the Brooks Range in the Canadian Yukon in 1972, and in 1996 circumnavigated Lake Superior in a kayak in 30 days without having to stop to resupply, his wife said. Knapp also climbed to the top of Mount McKinley and reached summits of 21,000 feet while mountain climbing in Nepal.
"He did what he loved, and he loved what he did," Dohrmann said. "He never got tired of wondering what was around the next corner or around the next bend."
It's estimated that Knapp logged more than 156,000 miles during his various outings, based on journal entries chronicling his adventures and his keen eye for detail, said Rudi Hargesheimer of Midwest Mountaineering, where for 34 years Knapp was the lead retail buyer for camping, canoeing and kayaking products.
"He was very meticulous," Hargesheimer said. "He was into getting the numbers right and getting the best discounts for customers. And he always was up on the newest gizmo, that always excited him."
Knapp shared his expertise at "inspiring and motivating" presentations at Midwest's annual Winterfest and Outdoor Expos, and encouraged listeners to follow their dreams, said Hargesheimer. He also spoke at seminars across the nation, wrote columns for magazines and authored two books, "Mountain Bike! The Great Plains States" and "The Optimum Kayak."
He was a volunteer member of the Lake Superior Water Trail, an organization charged in the 1990s with the job of creating trails on Lake Superior for nonmotorized watercraft, along with campsites, emergency exits and rest stops.
"Andy was classic consummate outdoor adventurer in the old sense of the word," said Michael Hodgson, president of Specialty News, an online news source covering the fitness and outdoor industries. "He always biked to work and was known for his detailed planning."
In addition to his wife, Knapp is survived by his daughter, Kaitlyn Knapp of Minneapolis; three brothers, Peter Knapp of San Francisco, Stephen Knapp of Roseville, and John Johnson of Capitola, Calif., and his mother, Nancy Knapp, of St. Paul.
A memorial service will be held in July.