His new three-part docuseries Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail starts tonight, and we spoke to him ahead of it airing about the incredible journey it entailed — as well as his thoughts on Todd Hoffman and Tony Beets!
Parker’s new adventure is designed as a tribute to his late grandfather John Schnabel and to the thousands of miners of the gold rush during the late 1800s on the Klondike trail.
Parker is practically the spitting image of his late grandfather.
In the premiere tonight, 23-year-old Parker boldly leads a four-person team along the infamous route which many thousands travelled in the hope of finding gold.
Tragically, many of those thousands died along the way.
Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail takes Parker, his foreman Rick Ness, expert wilderness guide Karla Ann — who once worked with Schnabel as a rock truck driver — and cameramen James Levelle on an epic 600-mile journey.
The tight team is put to the test as tempers flare while they attempt to follow in the footsteps of former gold miners, many of whom perished along the trail.
The show is a nail-biter as high spirits devolve quickly into real struggles and hostile moments.
We spoke to Parker on the phone after watching the excellent first episode, and we were psyched to learn some juicy insight from him about his fellow Gold Rushers, too!
Monsters and Critics: Parker, at a certain point filming this, did you ever doubt your choice of Rick Ness in your group?
Parker Schnabel: I doubted every choice I made about this!
M&C: I would love for you to elaborate. Rick was the most out-of-shape for this arduous journey…
PS: Yes, I mean, Rick…part of the reason why I wanted him to come on this thing was for that reason.
He was really not built for that kind of thing, you know? So I was really interested to see, first of all, if he would do it…and then what kind of attitude he would have about it and if he would stick with it.
I was pretty curious about that. I am really glad that he did it. I don’t know, I wouldn’t call it an experiment but I was curious to see how he would take all that.
M&C: Did this strengthen your friendship?
PS: Um. Yeah, I think it did.
M&C: Karla Ann, why did you select her in your foursome?
PS: Well, somebody had to try to keep us alive! Really. So Karla was there to…she’s got good first-aid training. She spends tons of time out in the woods, hunting and fishing and all that kind of stuff.
So it was kind of a no-brainer in that we needed somebody who knew what they were doing. Cause Rick and James and I certainly didn’t.
M&C: The timing is the critical wildcard in this series. Did producers try to dissuade you from doing this in winter?
PS: Well that was the biggest problem, that we had to leave so late, but we didn’t have any other options because I was mining up until five-six days before I went on this thing.
I had five days at home and then went right back into this, so that was as soon as we could do it.
It was either do something in the fall or something in the spring. Mining is our priority, we make a lot of money doing that and that has to be the focus really.
M&C: You show us lots of fresh scat, bear, and wolf. Did any of you encounter any apex predators directly in the trek?
PS: No, I don’t think we did. The bears were asleep and we didn’t see any wolves. There are no other predators out there except for those two.
M&C: Talk about Edna, who is she and how did you find her to advance equipment there?
PS: Edna…her family has lived in that area for…she’s First Nations right [Native American Indian]? Like that’s their territory.
So her family has been trapping in that area for a long time. I think her grandpapa, or her dad, was a packer on the original gold rush trail about 100 years ago.
She has a huge amount of history up there and we met through a mutual friend and she’s the only one at that Bennett Lake area at the time of year that we were there.
So it was a no-brainer to meet up with her and get some advice from her, and then also just kind of use her as a staging point in case we had any problems, right?
M&C: I loved her, I hope we see more of Edna, she was an interesting person.
PS: She is a very interesting person and I think there is a whole show there, if somebody were to make it about the history of that area.
M&C: Bennett Lake, man, what a nightmare, Can you talk about that?
PS: Yes, Bennett Lake was a nightmare, and it was like that every time we tried to go out on it, and it almost killed us before we even started on the water section of this whole trip.
Yeah, I wasn’t too happy about any of that [laughs]…as you can tell, I am sure, in the show.
M&C: You were adamant when James tried to get you to use the train and you were like, ‘f*** no’, so can you talk about that scene and the train trolley thing and how you circumvented Bennett Lake?
PS: Yeah, a rail cart? I don’t know…[laughs] the difference there between what James wanted to do and what we did was that…you know, I wasn’t gonna just hop in the cab of some nice heated locomotive and run down the tracks.
The whole idea of this trip was to do it non-motorized right? I felt like we were doing ourselves a disservice by that early on saying ‘oh well we can’t do it’.
I wasn’t at that point yet. I was nowhere near that point where we were just going to give up, right?
M&C: Did your grandfather John ever make this journey?
PS: He never did it, no. We talked about it a fair bit and one of the other routes to the Yukon was right through our mine up in Haines, so it was a big part of local history for sure.
M&C: Do you feel this could be an anthology of other explorations of different trails…like this isn’t a one-off series?
PS: Yes I would love to do more of this kind of stuff. I like being out in the woods and I like the challenges of these kinds of expeditions, so yeah, I would be open to doing something else.
I would have to really think about what it was…and how we would go about it. A lot of it would depend on who else would be involved.
Does Rick want to do it again? Does Karla? You know. I don’t know about James. James and I didn’t see eye to eye too much.
M&C: I got that from the first episode. I have to ask, in retrospect on the last season of Gold Rush, Hoffman’s bad luck and Beets’ bizarre family dynamic, any parting thoughts on the season that just wrapped?
PS: When it comes to Todd and Tony I have to be careful what I say.
They are both, well, all three of us are very big personalities and all three of us have — are completely opposite in the sense of how we conduct ourselves and how we run a business and how we prioritize things. And it’s pretty interesting.
Tony Beets said to me last fall, he was having a lot of people problems and that he couldn’t keep a crew and he said to me, ‘Well I will tell you one thing, if you ever want to be successful in any business you better have a lot of kids, cause they’re the only good workers you will find.’
In my mind when I hear something like that it’s a pretty screwed up view of the world, you know?
And it’s the complete opposite of the way my dad runs the business…and like my dad never once even, I mean he’s offered me jobs, but in the most low-key way, in a sense of ‘do whatever you want in the world.’
My mom has always pushed us NOT to go to work in the family business because there’s a whole world out there to see.
So I have a hard time relating to what Tony’s saying just because it’s a…pretty odd ideal to have in my mind — that notion that if you want to have a good business you better have a lot of kids. It baffles me, that mentality.
So when I say we are all complete opposites, Todd [Hoffman] has a whole set of his ideals that I just cannot understand, I mean…I can understand them but I don’t agree with them at all and so it is an interesting dynamic.
I don’t really have anything too revealing to say except all three of us do things completely different and I think that’s what makes it an interesting TV show!
Some people hate me and think I am a raging a****** and silver spoon-fed kid, and there are some people that hate other people and there’s some that love all three of us, it’s…I feel like the New York Yankees.
M&C: Hey, did you find any gold at the end of the trail?
PS: Am I supposed to give that away? I don’t know if I can tell you or not, we spent a lot of time looking…
M&C: Come on!
PS: Do you really want to know? You’re gonna get me fired, the Discovery channel is going to fire me because I gave away secrets.
Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail premieres tonight, Friday March 31 at 9pm ET/PT on Discovery.