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We Tried It! PEOPLE's Emily Strohm Goes Mining for Gold with the Stars of Discovery's Gold Rush

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Panning for gold is no easy task. Just to access the remote claims outside of Dawson City, Canada where Discovery invited me to experience living like a Gold Rush miner for two days, I had to take four back-to-back flights, then drive two hours down a desolate dirt road with no GPS or cell phone service. (Miners rely on maps and their memory).

All in all, it took me 24 hours to get there. Once we reached “camp,” I got a quick tour of the cozy wooden shack where I’d be sleeping, the communal kitchen and the two toilets and showers to be shared by 26. Who needs glam when you’re digging for gold?

Phil Zimmerman/Discovery Channel

From there, it was time to get down to business. After an introduction to Discovery’s resident mining “bad boy” Parker Schnabel, 23, we set off for my first official lesson in panning. I also toured Tony Beets dredge and hung out with Rick Ness. “In some regions they find nuggets, but the tiny stuff, the flakes, are what pays the bills around here,” Schnabel says.

While he’s got a full-blown modern operation with expensive equipment to help expedite the process, I learned the-tried-and true way: separating gold from rocks with water and good old-fashioned pan. The result? Success: I found seven tiny flecks of gold. But my buddy Schnabel, who’s mined $13 million of gold over six years, wasn’t exactly impressed.

“You couldn’t buy a Tootsie Roll with that,” he said. “Better luck next time, I guess!”

Gold Rush returns Oct. 13 on Discovery