Tonight’s episode of "Gold Rush" was titled “Grandpa’s Last Wish.” As the episode opened fans hear the voice of John Schnabel stating that time has run out, more or less. He has very aggressive prostate cancer, and he knows how his body is being pulled down day by day. John knows that everyone cannot live forever, but they must have a dream they can work towards. His dream is to find gold in Smith Creek, and he is convinced of it. He is determined to give Smith Creek one more shot with his grandsons Parker and Payson.
As Grandpa John meets with his two grandsons, the snow is falling pretty heavily in Alaska. Parker asks him what they have now, that they did not have when they found very little? John replied that they have Grandpa refusing to give up.
It is November at the Big Nugget Mine in Southeast Alaska. The mining season is over, and Parker and his brother Payson head up to Smith Creek to see if it is even possible to deliver on their grandpa’s dream? After mining two seasons at Smith Creek, Parker gave up, eighty feet from bedrock. This summer Payson managed to shift only thirty feet of overburden.
For Parker and Payson to follow Grandpa John’s dream, they would have to excavate an area 100 feet long by 200 feet wide by 50 feet deep. This would entail hauling away 2,000 rock trucks of worthless dirt. Parker loves his grandfather, but it is 20 degrees; it is snowing, and he is burned out from mining the Klondike.
As the brothers went to see John, Parker told him one of his biggest fears this summer, was returning and having him not being there. Now that he is back, both he and his brother will give it all they have to fulfill his dream. If they can have ten days of temperatures above ten degrees, they may just complete this task. Below ten degrees, the wash plant will freeze up, and they will be unable to prove Grandpa right. Payson called in some help from Gary Grogan and Gary Hinkle to drive the rock trucks.
Seeing the old photos of John, his grandsons look so much like him, and with nothing but determination, he arrived there with no money. For twenty-three years, he mined the surrounding areas; everything but Smith Creek. His dream was to find gold there, but after two seasons of a futile endeavor, Parker left to go to the Klondike. As Payson is digging, he comes across a rock that is a big as a pickup truck. As he attempts to lift it with the shovel, he slides into a muddy ditch. When he finally climbs out, he still has to move the boulder, but time is a factor, and this took too long to accomplish. With forty-five feet to go, it could take them three weeks to hit bedrock.
With Parker’s Klondike experience, he wants to use a monitor, like he did in the Yukon to make a slurry. He calls in a favor, and Rick Ness comes through to bring a monitor to Smith Creek, and stays to help. As the plan works, they moved so much dirt, but Payson found a problem. There are lots of boulders that are blocking the way down to bedrock. The slurry is eroding part of the road the rock trucks will need to haul away the dirt. As Parker tries to drive the rock truck, he nearly goes down the hill, as the road starts to collapse under the weight of the rock truck.
After having a meal, the guys talk to their mother and discuss their findings. As John comes to visit the boys, they show him a shovelful of dirt, and he believes it is river gravel. As Payson pulls a pan of dirt, he lets his grandfather check the pan. Sure enough, there is color in the pan, and they believe they found the river channel. Now they must start running dirt through the wash plant before the temperature drops below ten degrees.
As the wash plant is started up, Rick tweaks what needs to be done to keep it running when the loader goes on fire. With the only hope, a hopper that Parker left in the Klondike, their father agrees to get it down to Smith. Their father comes through and hauls it down from Scribner. Roger then joins his two sons in the operation to feed the hopper and hopefully fulfill John’s dream.
Overnight, the temperature dropped below ten degrees, and the wash plant froze up breaking the valves and rendering it disabled for the season. However, in a last effort, they checked the pan and the jig, and as John stood by, the boys found three nuggets, proving John’s theory that there was gold in Smith Creek all along. Now he just hopes that by spring, he will still be here to find out how much gold there really is. May God bless you, John and your wonderful family.