After a day-long marathon, Discovery’s hit reality series “Gold Rush” ends it third season on Friday, Feb. 22, with a two-hour live show, broadcast from a special studio in Portland, Ore.
On Tuesday, Feb. 19, 18-year-old gold miner and native Alaskan Parker Schnabel is ready to board a plane in Los Angeles, leaving behind a publicity swing to head to Portland.
“What’s it like to be on TV?” he says to Zap2it. “And what it’s like to be on TV is to be asked what it’s like to be on TV all the time. Nothing has really changed for me as far as work goes and my life in Alaska. I grew up in a really small town, about 2,500 people, graduated with 26 kids. Everybody knew what I was doing before the show aired. Half of them knew what was going to be in every episode before it aired.
“As far as my life goes, not a lot has changed. I might have met old, what’s his name, Larry King. I met Larry King. But other than little press trips like this and live TV on Friday, I’ll go back up to Alaska and really not much else has changed.”
Growing up in Haines, Alaska, Schnabel has worked at the Gold Nugget mine, belonging to his grandfather John Schnabel, since, as his Discovery bio says, “his feet could touch the pedals of mining equipment.”
A dedicated outdoorsman — and former high-school varsity basketball player — Schnabel first appeared on the show when he tried to help Todd Hoffman’s mining crew when it was on the Porcupine Creek claim.
This past year, he took over the Big Nugget mine — as boss of men who were, in many cases, decades older than him — in hopes of keeping his grandfather’s dream alive. Fans of “Gold Rush” got to see a great partnership between two men separated by generations and decades but united in love for each other and gold mining.
“It’s hard not to love him,” Schnabel says of his grandfather. “We always have been very close. He’s always been a part of my life, and I couldn’t ask for a better grandpa.
“Our relationship has always been based around the mine. He’s been doing that for 25 years, so he’s been mining since before I was born. Every summer I would spend time up there, ever since I can remember.”
Asked if he ever considered another job, Schnabel says, “Not really. I like being outside and being active. I don’t really want to get stuck behind a desk. It’s pretty easy to have that happen to you. So, mining is great. I really enjoy it. If I wasn’t mining, I’d probably be doing construction. That’s what my dad does.”
Schnabel certainly never expected — or wanted — to be in front of a camera.
“Gold mining is a really secluded business normally,” he says. “A lot of people, actually, that’s why they’re gold mining. They don’t have to deal with anybody; they don’t have any customers or clients. You mind your own business and dig some gold.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting it to blow up like this and neither was my grandfather.”
As fans of the show have seen, Schnabel has been in ongoing discussions with his parents on whether he should just keep mining or take a break to go to college.
“Yeah, that’s in the works,” he says. “I think we’ll be talking about this on Friday. My parents want me to do what I want to do. They don’t want me to get turned down a bad path. Just because I don’t go to college doesn’t mean that’s a bad path, but at the same time, they want me to get an education.”
Regarding having any regrets about being on television, Schnabel says, “No, I don’t. I’m really comfortable with the people I work with and how they portray me on TV. If I wasn’t happy, and I didn’t think that Discovery and Raw TV did a good job, then I wouldn’t do it.”
The odd marriage proposal has even come his way.
“A few come across my Twitter every day,” Schnabel says, then admits, “Not every day; every once in a while.”