With gold selling for over $1,600 an ounce, Americans are combing their dressers and attics for old jewelry, looking to cash in on the new gold rush. The miners on Discovery Channel’s hit reality show “Gold Rush” have a different kind of gold fever–they left their homes and family in the Lower 48, hoping to strike it rich mining for gold in Alaska.
“I’ve had talks with my kids about the state of the economy,” miner Todd “The Boss” Hoffman tells FOX411.com. "I’ve said, ‘Now, listen. We’re in deep trouble, we’ve overspent and in order for you little guys to have a future, daddy has to go out and do something a little crazy.’"
Last season, Hoffman, a former aviation worker, sold almost everything he owned and convinced several of his unemployed buddies to pool their resources and go to America’s Last Frontier to mine for gold. “I don’t qualify for unemployment,” explains Hoffman. “I’m not even on the radar for any of that type of stuff. For guys like me, that’s not even an option. Thank heavens it isn’t, because it’s killing our country. You have to get out there and make something happen.”
Todd Hoffman learned the art of mining from his father, Jack, during the hardscrabble ‘70s. “Coming out of the Carter days, it was rough for my family,” says Hoffman. “We weren’t successful money-wise, but we were very successful in that my father showed me the possibility of the future. That came to fruition later on, as now I am able to help my father realize his lifelong dream of becoming a gold miner.”
But dreams don’t come easy.
Despite investing $250,000 in the mining venture, Hoffman and his father only found about $20,000 in gold last season. Veteran gold miner Fred Hurt believes that the Hoffmans' lack of success came from not listening to his advice.
“Last year I came in and I thought I had a lot to offer the fellows,” says Hurt. “I would suggest, and they would reject–much to their detriment. I guess they just didn’t want to listen to an old man.”
Undeterred, this season the Hoffmans mortgaged their small family airport in Sandy, Oregon to return to Alaska in their search for riches. “We’re a bit more seasoned,” Hoffman declares. “We’re taking more advice–it’s almost like we’re going from grade school to college. We go about things in a new way.”
There’s also more drama. “You’ll see some things that are really tough to watch,” Hoffman says of the new season’s father-son dynamic. “There’s some pretty emotional things that happen between me and my father. My dad had to kind of grow up on his own, so it’s a new experience for him to be a team player. And I’m a bit of a control freak, overstepping my bounds.”
After working for months on the "Glory Hole,” the name they gave their mine, the Hoffmans and their crew were finally seeing results–gold! Lots of gold. Unfortunately, their former advisor, Hurt, sensed a huge payday, and bought the mine outright–leaving the Hoffmans high and dry.
“They assumed that Porcupine Creek claim was just an old, worthless, worn-out claim. They were totally wrong,” Hurt says of his claim. “We did quite well.”
“It’s tough,” Hoffman says of the experience. “You get going in one direction, and then you have to go in another direction. I think the worst part about it is the mental aspect–you have to shift gears and figure out what to do. It’s tough to keep everybody together. We’re gone for six months, so it’s grueling on everybody–not just physically, but mentally, because of all the twists and turns. On top of that, we’re getting filmed!”
But seeing big, gleaming chunks of gold never gets old. “It’s the best feeling in the world,” says Hoffman. “When the process is working, it’s like a little money machine. Everything is ticking. We’re hitting on all cylinders–we’re processing gold. It’s like we’re tricking the whole world. It’s like saying, ‘Ha-ha! You didn’t beat us. We’re kicking your ass.’”
The second season of “Gold Rush” returns on Friday, October 28 on the Discovery Channel.