Written By Katie Rolnick, Associate Producer

Gold mining in Alaska is all about scale. You’re surrounded by vistas larger and grander than any you’ve seen before. Land stretches far out in every direction, bound only by sky-scraping mountains and giant rivers. Compare that with the itty-bitty flecks of gold these miners hope to uncover. Sure, some ground holds chunkier nuggets, but a lot of the gold I’ve seen up here has been, well, hard to see.

The polarities of scale are evident at all three camps. The Bakers run a huge operation, moving hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of dirt with massive machinery. Creighton and Chuck work a smaller plot, but their towering wash plant is nothing to sneeze at. And yet, at the end of the day, both camps count their gold in ounces.

Even the Reeves, who are prospecting this summer, show the monumental and miniscule aspects of this endeavor. John is trying to find the richest ground on his 10,000 plus acres of land. So he has his kids take samples from different locations and pan the dirt to see what it holds. He asks them how many colors they’ve got in their pans—how many pieces of gold they’ve found. They give him their numbers and then, usually, they toss the gold aside. After all, these are tiny specks, something only a trained eye would notice shining at the bottom of a pan.

But instead of throwing away these sample findings, Maria’s been collecting hers (and her siblings’) in a water bottle. For now, they’re barely visible. But it will be interesting to see how much she accumulates over the summer. Just like Chuck, Creighton, and the Bakers, she knows that a lot of little pieces add up to something worth keeping.

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Tune in to the premiere of Goldfathers: The Road to Riches tonight at 10P et/pt