Exclusive: Parker Schnabel’s legacy journey on the Klondike trail in Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail

Parker Schnabel and his team on Gold Rush: Parker's Trail
Parker Schnabel and three friends are following the Klondike trail on Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail

Discovery has a new Friday night hit on their hands, Gold Rush star Parker Schnabel in a new docuseries called Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail — and we have a special preview ahead of tonight’s premiere episode.

In a bid to honor his late grandpa John Schnabel, who passed away in 2016, grandson Parker is pressing his life and luck with a once-in-a-lifetime journey.

It will see him recreating the historically infamous Yukon Klondike trail, formally known as the Chilkoot trail, which early prospectors took in search of gold.

Parker wants to experience what these miners did in the late 1800s, setting out from Dyea, Alaska, to claim their stake in a remote frigid region rumored to have nuggets laying about for easy pickings.

It is a historic and harrowing tribute, as more than 70 per cent of those who undertook the Chilkoot trail and the equally dangerous White Pass trail ultimately failed.

Parker and a tight-knit group of three friends are racing against the elements on a 600-mile journey with what Parker says has no “Plan B”.

The Yukon gold fields or bust? Schnabel begins this momentous undertaking in his hometown of Haines, Alaska.

Joining him are foreman and pal Rick Ness, cameraman James Levelle and wilderness guide and past Gold Rush crew member Karla Ann.

The end of this arduous trip is the gold miners’ Valhalla of Dawson City. Parker and company must go through treacherous terrain to get there at the worst possible time, howling winter.

In the opener, the locals at Schnabel’s Haines’ bar try to dissuade Parker, but expert hiker Karla puts a fine point on the actual dangers. Hypothermia is topping her list.

Rick seems to be in high spirits but she tries to sober them all up to the reality of the undertaking.

The group will be on their own most of the way, so they will be recording their travails and one-on-one interviews as they achieve milestones.

This weighs heavy on Parker who also records his thoughts, and the sobering reality of the journey, meant as a tribute, sinks in.

The group bids farewell to Haines in a snow storm and heads north.

The first staging post, Dyea, is where they officially head out on to the trail. The next seven days they have to head over a mountain range to Sheep Camp, the first area that was historically used by miner hopefuls to regroup.

Unsettling footage shows eery relics of past Klondike trailblazers which are found along their trail.

This is the easy part of the trail and Rick is not doing well already. A good deal of the premiere’s footage is devoted to Rick’s inability to keep up, and his worries that he is keeping the others back due to being out of shape.

The guys are finding bear scat everywhere, and it’s fresh. This is no joke as Grizzlies and Black and Brown bears live and flourish here.

A 45-degree climb up the Golden Stairs is dreaded as they hit Sheep Camp. The enormity of the task ahead is freaking everyone out. Their clothes are wet already, and the elevation will certainly freeze their garments.

Sheep Camp is reached. A stove is found inside an abandoned tent before they attempt the Golden Stairs. The group dries their clothes as they all worry about Rick who tells the cameras he doubts he can make it.

Parker says in an interview that the only one doing well, it seems, is Karla, who is experienced and physically prepared.

As the snow falls, the trail becomes hidden, obfuscated by snowfall. At the end of the Gold Rush, an aerial tramway was built and the team knows that if they can find it or the remnants of it, they can sort the trail out. But it’s hard to do this.

Falls, near misses and assorted outright physical misery are befalling them all. At 15 degrees and wind building the chill factor to record lows, the specter of being trapped becomes more real.

A small victory is reached as they hit 3,500 feet above sea level, and they find a cabin for some shelter. Rick busts out a flask of whiskey as they warm up by the fire and celebrate reaching this spot.

Day 3 sees the group head out once again, recharged. They are in Canada now and head down towards the lakes, and fresh wolf tracks are found.

Karla forges ahead as everyone has to take a breather from the exertion. They finally reach the daunting 27-mile long Bennett Lake.

Historically, Bennett Lake became a town by default. Simply because many miners were stranded there from the severe “turn on a dime” weather conditions.

The group seeks out a cabin with a woman only identified as Edna, who is storing fresh gear sent ahead for them to take for the next part of their journey — on canoes.

She admonishes them for doing all of this exploring in the winter.

Edna is waiting on Parker and company and has their gear assembled for the rest of the journey

Off they go into the frigid lake, the first of four they must cross. It’s far too rough. Parker and Karla head back to shore.

James and Rick have a tougher time of it. Rick has a bit of a strop and walks off. This is the first fight we see between Rick and Parker and the rest.

They are stuck, and by Day 7, a new plan is enacted to best tricky Bennett Lake. They make a decision to head out and, for safety, the canoes are lashed together like a catamaran.

Dubbed the Golden Edna, they head out as the wind howls. The group is going nowhere. Back to shore, beaten by Bennett lake once again.

Stuck, and with just 33 miles gone on a 600-mile journey, the creepy wind noises have them held hostage as their nerves begin to fray.

“I hate not being in control, and right now we’re pretty f****** helpless,” says Parker.

Parker is running out of options as Bennett Lake turns on them

Alternatives to their plan are broached by James and it’s not a popular idea. “This is called cheating, is it not?” says Karla who ideologically is in line with Parker on how to achieve their end goal.

Not having it, James argues with her and she urges Parker to be included the conversation.

James says: “I’m desperate to get to Dawson, is there another way to get there?”  He wants to get on the train to expedite the trip. Parker shuts it down. “I’m not getting on the f****** train,” he says.

Parker tries to figure it out as Bennett Lake becomes a sheet of ice before our eyes. They find a push flatbed trolley car on the tracks. This seems to be an easier way than attempting the lake.

What will come of it?

Watch tonight and see what happens!

Here’s an exclusive clip of what’s to come…

Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail premieres tonight, Friday March 31 at 9pm ET/PT on Discovery.

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