“I’m terrified, I don’t want to do this,” confesses Gold Rush’s tough foreman Rick Ness, before he begins what undoubtedly will be the hardest physical feat he and his boss Parker Schnabel have ever endeavored. Their journey to complete the legendary Klondike Gold Rush trail is chronicled in the three-part docuseries Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail beginning Friday, March 31 at 9/8c (repeats at 11/10c) on Discovery Channel.
The grueling 600-mile quest is a challenge Parker put forth to pay tribute to his grandfather (Grandpa John) who passed away in March 2016. His idea was to retrace the path that more than 100,000 brave souls took in the late 1890s in pursuit of extraordinary wealth and staking their own claim, a journey that would put them in horrendous weather conditions and treacherous terrain and where they would be void of modern day luxurious and technology. Somehow he was able to convince not only Ness (more on that in a minute), but also longtime cameraman James Levelle and his rock truck driver (who is a wilderness guide) Karla Ann Charlton.
“I thought up this idea with a couple buddies of mine, who worked on Gold Rush, sitting in a bar,” Parker recalled. “I was talking about what I wanted to do in the winter time — and I normally travel around a lot and get really nothing accomplished — except getting ready for the next mining season, of course. We were talking about things to do and that came up. The idea turned into the Gold Rush Trail. We pitched the show [Parker’s Trail] and I was pretty set on doing it anyway, but I thought, ‘hey, why not make a big production out of it and see what they think.’
Well, his idea was initially turned down by the network.”They hated it,” Parker said, but he continued to pursue the idea with his Gold Rush friends.
“Rick laughed it off like, ‘Oh, another one of Parker’s pipe dreams.’ But then the network came back and said, ‘Oh, well maybe we do want to do this,’” Parker said. “I went to Rick and I said, ‘Hey, this is happening.’ And he was like, ‘No, it’s not.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah! It is happening.’ I thought that it would be hilarious to get Rick out of his element and, for me, it was a bit of an experiment with him. He was not the right guy for this type of thing as you can see in the first episode. Not built for this. I knew that something would happen. Either he would mentally break down or come above all of it and I knew that something would have to happen with him. That’s why I really wanted Rick to come, I wanted to see how he responded to that challenge.”
Parker was right on the money (again) with that call, as Rick offers much of the drama starting with the show’s very first few minutes (we still don’t know if he made it). Rick’s a Wisconsinite at heart (we love our beer) — he’s a fit guy, but not cardio fit and his drinking and smoking certainly didn’t help his cause. Add to that a 60-pound backpack, 45-degree ascents, frigid temperatures and a lack of food — you can appreciate the misery ahead.
“He’s gonna hate me for saying this, but Rick is a guy who is the exact opposite of everything that we kind of stood for on this trek,”Parker added. “He drinks a hell of a lot of beer, smokes piles of cigarettes, the only workout he’s really done the last 20 years, I think, is weightlifting. … He’s not a cardio, hiking, paddling kind of guy.”
Parker is still amazed Rick agreed to do it!
“That’s one of my favorite parts of the whole thing. Rick, for whatever reason, said ‘yes,’ because I kinda thought he’d say ‘no,’ but he said ‘yes.’ As for Carla, we knew we needed somebody that knew what they were doing, at least in the slightest bit. I know what I’m doing out in the woods, but when it comes to making miles everyday and whatnot, I’m not that type of guy, and neither is any of us. … Carla is the most energetic, animated, super cool chick — you can’t help but just want to love her. She is just one of the coolest gals I’ve ever met.”
Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail airs on Discovery Channel beginning Friday, March 31 at 9/8c