One of the great perks of being out on the claim was getting to witness the Alaskan wildlife in all its raw glory. Every day we drove into the mine past iconic giant eagles and huge brown bears. I didn’t quite believe they’d be brazen enough to come into camp but we all carried pepper sprays and personal alarms. The pepper spray was mischievously referred by the locals as “seasoning for tourists.” Fortunately, we had some armed locals watching our backs at all times in case a hungry bear decided to stray onto camp. One evening, as we were packing up, I had a feeling that I was being watched. I looked up onto a ridge, where I caught a glimpse of a bear looking down at me. It was a sobering moment that made me realize that this outpost in Alaska was their world and we were just visitors.
I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say this, but, at first, our miners were pretty hopeless. Machinery kept breaking down and everyone was learning on the job, constantly hoping today would be the day they struck the payload. As a crew member, it left you in a constant state of high alert. I was anxious not to miss filming the moment when they might pull a gold nugget out of the ground. I saw some gold that season but it took a long while for the guys to really get into a groove and strike it rich. Eight seasons later, I think they’ve got it down pretty well.
I remember Parker made a brief appearance in the season and we met his Granddad John Schnabel who has now sadly passed away. Parker was just another teenager growing up in the back and beyond and certainly not the huge star he is today.
My season at Porcupine Creek ended with the threat of being snowed in and stranded by the coming winter. Time had run out for the miners and Todd and his Dad eventually called time. We filmed an epic get out with a convoy of trucks and heavy machinery being dragged off the claim and back to Oregon. It was a fitting end to a first season. As I boarded the plane for home, I suspected we had witnessed something special, but we had no idea that Todd and his crew would return the following year with eight more seasons, when the guys would still be heading north to prospect for TV gold.