I'm Holly Jo, I was the "Gold Girl" tour guide the last 3 years at Porcupine Creek in Haines, AK. Two years at John & Parker Schnabel's Big Nugget Gold Mine and one year at Dakota Fred's Porcupine Creek Gold Mine. Not sure what I will be doing this year as the Gold tours at Porcupine Creek are not offered any more...and I kinda got fired.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gold Rush Tour to Porcupine Creek

John Schnabel

I have been invited to work with a tour company called Rainbow Glacier Tours. Yes!  That is.....as long as I can get myself licensed with a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) by the time cruise ships start coming up the inside passage of Southeast Alaska (mid May).  The owner has offered me a position as the Porcupine Creek Gold Rush Tour Guide....I’ll be the Gold Girl! I will get to take tourist out to Porcupine Creek and pan for gold at the Schnabel’s Big Nugget Gold Mine.
Have you seen Discovery Channel’s television show, Gold Rush ALASKA?  If you are a follower then you know who John Schnabel is.  He was on the show a few times.  He is the wise, respectable, gold mining neighbor of the greenhorn Oregon crew.  You know, the 6 men who came to Porcupine Creek last summer to strike it rich by gold mining.  They were not too successful (16 ounces of gold) but if they come back this year they have a chance of hitting the glory hole, since they have such a deep hole started.
Jack Dalton and his horse Trailblazer
John Schnabel has been mining Porcupine Creek for 25 years, he is 91 years old, and has been extremely successful at digging up the rich pay dirt.  I interviewed Mr. Schnabel a few months back about making a map of the Porcupine Creek area and its history.  He is an amazing man who has a great love of Haines and the history of Porcupine Creek.  His favorite gold miner of the 1898 gold rush is Jack Dalton.  
Jack Dalton was a quite man who made a big impression.  The ladies loved him, livestock obeyed him and men respected and feared him.  He worked as a logger, rancher, freighter, trail maker, and all around entrepreneur.  He opened up the Dalton Trail taking livestock , supplies and people from Haines to the Klondike Gold Rush in Dawson City.  It was along Dalton Trail that gold in Porcupine Creek was discovered.  John Schnabel’s dream is to get the Dalton Trail on the Registry of Historical Trails.  He turned me on to an excellent book called, "Jack Dalton: The Alaska Pathfinder" by M. J. Kirchhoff.  Its a great read for Alaska history, the gold rush of Porcupine Creek, and Haines.  Jack Dalton was the epitome of the wild western frontier man.   I would love to see Mr. Schnabel get his dream.....now Im a big fan as well.  
Dalton Trail crossing
Klehini River
(near Porcupine Creek)
Here is an interesting fact.  Jack Dalton's son, James Dalton, was an Arctic Engineer who was a consultant in the oil field exploration of Alaska. The Dalton Highway (Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay) is named after him (anyone know Ice Road Truckers?).

John Schnabel's grandson, 16  yr old Parker, was on the TV show as well. He helped the Oregon guys work equipment on one of the episodes.  The Schnabel family is "salt of the earth", no nonsense, friendly people.  What you see is what you get.  Mr. Schnabel told me the Discovery Crew tried to give him lines to say for their show.  They wanted him to play the "mean, unfriendly neighbor".  He wouldn't hear of it.  He helped them when they asked, if he could, and that was that.  I look forward to taking guests out to meet the Schnabels and pan for gold.  
And hey, if I have anything to do with it,  I may have to take a little detour to check out the Discovery Crew’s Gold Mine (since they are neighbors and all).  I hope the Oregon crew will come back to Porcupine Creek for another run.  John Schnabel said it took him 2 years to start seeing pay dirt.  
As for me, right now, I have to get working on this CDL thing.  I have already passed the written tests.  I had to take 3 tests; general knowledge, passenger endorsement and air brakes.  I will spare you the trauma, but it took me 5 times to pass all 3.  Yes - I know that doesn't sound good, but I’ve never claimed to be a mechanic.  Thank goodness the written test was free.
Mr. John Schnabel and me - 2011
With my CDL driving permit in hand, and the keys to the company bus, I now have to learn how to drive the thing without hitting people, buildings, or other vehicles.  (I’m sure I can do it.)  I also have to learn about the parts under the hood for a pre-trip inspection.  (I don't know about that.)  I hear the Haines Motor Vehicle Inspector is very strict and is more likely to fail a person than pass them. People have suggested it may be better for me to load the bus on the ferry and go to Skagway and test over there.  They may be right since it costs $25 per test, if my written test is any indication of my driving abilities...well...this could get costly.   


  1. Very Interesting Blog - I enjoyed the pictures - and the historical facts. Things are coming together for the summer "Gold Rush" Keep on Keeping on. Great Stuff

  2. GOLD Girl is a perfect name for you with your sunshine bubbly attitude. What an awesome experience. I should send this to Margaret @ NCL shore excursion, because i know our people will want to take this tour. Would love to come and take it myself... hmm how can i get NCL to send me. :)

    1. Im growing up....I'm Gold Gal now hahaha

  3. That's a great photo of John and you! What a beautiful face and your is too Holly Jo!

  4. Starting watch the show and didn't know that Parker was from Haines I lived there for 10 years and played softball with his dad for NWT and saw his dad falling trees kinda cool. Great show!

    1. Wow - very cool! Roger and John make it on the show too. Now your going to be hooked :)

  5. I would love to go on that tour when I visit the States. You have such a lovely bubbly personality. Becca x

    1. Thank you Becca - I hope you come visit! Gold Gal