Richard “Rick” Ness remains a beloved cast member of the “Gold Rush” reality TV show, despite admitting that he’d lost the willpower to be in front of cameras, or lead his mining team. Discovery aired the show on 3 December 2010; it followed the placer gold mining efforts of several crews, most notably led by Rick, John Schnabel and his grandson Parker Schnabel, after John died in 2016, Tony Beets and, since the 11th season, Fred Lewis.

They were knowledgeable, fascinating to watch, easy to admire, and most importantly, made millions in the Klondike region of Dawson City, Yukon, Canada, which became popular during the first Klondike Gold Rush between 1896 and 1899. Discovery expanded the gold mining efforts to South America, primarily Peru, and western North America, mainly Alaska and Canada’s British Columbia province.

Rick was always competitive, ambitious, and successful. Hence, he never wanted to miss a mining season, and his TV show appearances added pressure in late 2022, following a tragedy involving his mother. Rick’s determination waned in late 2022, and he unexpectedly missed the debut episode of season 13. Fans were surprised, and tried to contact him via social media, but received no response. Thankfully, Rick resurfaced in the 2nd episode of the 13th season, and explained what had been bothering him before he took a break from filming and mining. His depression was temporary and new, luckily; unconfirmed reports, pared with Rick’s online job postings, suggest that he’ll return and lead his team with vigor in the yet-unannounced season 14 of “Gold Rush.” Here is what happened.

He overcame several struggles

Rick’s inability to perform is nothing out of the ordinary. He’d worked in various professions, from construction to music to mining gold, before he began working with the Schnabel family almost two decades ago, responsible for delegating tasks and completing digs efficiently and quickly. Thus, the tragedy of his mother’s early death caught Rick by surprise; he tried to fight it, but something snapped in him, and he needed time to recuperate. He hurt his girlfriend by cheating in the last two to three years, but has seemingly fully recovered in the second half of 2023. He is back to work, got back with his girlfriend, and seems enthusiastic about life again.

Rick’s first issue dates to college

Fans have learned to love Rick Ness for his experience, initially as a foreman, then as a mining crew leader. However, they may need to realize that Rick originally wanted to become a professional football player. He was born on 5 March 1981, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, and grew up in Escanaba, Michigan, before moving back to Milwaukee for a period. He has a twin brother, Randy, a machinist for the family’s construction company.

Rick matriculated from Escanaba High School in 1999, then enrolled at an undisclosed college. He’d been playing football recreationally, but considered a career after playing football as part of a college team, and realizing how good and physically adequate he was. Unfortunately, an unspecified head injury shattered his dreams of becoming a professional player.

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He quit music for mining

Rick was passionate about music throughout his life, and used the opportunity when it presented itself in 2003. He went to a concert of his favorite band, but another, entitled “.357 Stringband,” took their place in the original band’s absence. They did not fare well, but Rick recognized potential and asked if he could play upright bass. They agreed, and Rick recorded three EP (extended play) albums with them, “Ghost Town” in 2006, “Fire and Hail” in 2008, and “Lightning From The North” in 2010.

Rick had also worked for his family’s construction business, and so had on-site experience. Therefore, he saw a chance for a career change when he met Parker Schnabel while touring with his band at Southeast Alaska State Fair in Haines, Alaska, around 2009. He was reportedly offered the job of a rock truck operator and excavator several months later, and joined the Schnabel team in the TV show’s third season. Rick was too busy to work on his music afterwards, and the band members parted ways in 2011.

The first problem started in 2017

Rick enjoyed what he did, but realized that he could take things to the next level with his knowledge, determination and luck, which led him to the job in the first place. Therefore, Rick suggested to Parker that he wanted to be a boss, and considered leaving the team. His departure was close to a betrayal; after all, he soaked up Parker’s knowledge and oversaw the operations, then wanted to be Parker’s rival.

The decision had been brewing for a while in his head, but one event, during an operation at the Panama Canal site, seems to be the final reason. Rick promised Parker that he could finish the job in time, but he started running behind schedule and had to hire four extra workers to complete the operation. Consequently, Parker lost money and candidly told Rick that ‘he cannot run the mine site with his money without collaborating with him.’ That was the last time that he worked under Parker.

Although the situation played out in 2017, Rick announced that he’d left in the episode “Mining With Monsters” of the “Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail” spin-off, which aired on 23 March 2018, stating, ‘I think that I’ve learned a lot in the last six or seven years that I’ve been doing this, but I don’t know anything about the business side.’ He clarified that becoming a boss would be scary, but that he was ready to try.

They quickly resolved everything

Parker confessed that it caused turmoil, but that their mining crew operated as a unit and was bigger than he or Rick. Therefore, they perceived the departure as a new challenge, and didn’t take it personally. He appreciated that Rick told him ahead of time, and that he understood his decision and would likely have done the same. Parker concluded that they walked away as friends, and hoped to remain forever.

His mother’s death affected him

Rick was uncertain what would happen, mainly because he hired his friends from Wisconsin, despite knowing that his friends had worked in construction, but never in mining. Regardless, he went all in, investing all his life savings into the business, and said that he didn’t want to attempt such a drastic ordeal with strangers by his side.

In hindsight, Rick made the right decision; his business flourished through hard work, and his mining crew worked efficiently and produced results. Even problems with his mechanic, Carl Rosk, who feuded with Parker, and a mutiny among crew members in the ninth season didn’t permanently harm his resolve. Rick even stood by Carl in 2021 when Carl had to have a 12-hour-long surgical operation to remove several tumors, the biggest ones on his spine and lung.

However, shortly after he left Parker’s crew and sunk all his money, Rick learned that his mother’s health had worsened. Her health was less than ideal, but the cancer returned halfway through season eight. Rick was optimistic, telling his social media followers that she underwent proper treatment in February 2018, and felt better while the cancer persisted. He spent all his free time by her side, and was torn when his mother died at home aged 55 on 20 March 2018 when his face pressed against hers. Two days later, “Gold Rush” producers asked fans to donate to the CancerCare non-profit organization in memory of Rick’s mother.

His family and romantic life were initially quiet

Rick has kept his romantic life away from the spotlight, and “Gold Rush” producers gave it no attention. Therefore, his fans incorrectly learned over the years that he was married to Jen Ness and reportedly had two children. However, credible sources show that Jen is his brother’s wife; Rick was, at least publicly, single and a proud uncle.

With that in mind, Rick was rumoured to be connected to Karla Ann Charlton, who joined “Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail” when he started his solo venture. They began spending much time together, shared many photos online, and had great chemistry. Therefore, fans jumped the gun, praising their romantic connection, and some accused Rick of having an extra-marital affair. In truth, Rick saw Karla as a sister he never had and wanted to maintain a deep platonic relationship.

Their time together showed that they probably wouldn’t work well as a couple, as Karla was fitness-oriented and paid attention to her diet. In contrast, Rick began smoking and pounding beer more than in the past. While fans understood that he needed some relief from the things related to his mother, they were worried that he might become addicted.

Rick struggled with depression

Fans’ concerns with his alcohol and cigarette consumption faded, but a new one arose  in 2022. Rick was absent from the first debut episode of the 13th season, prompting the cast member Brian “Zee” Zaremba to do a welfare check. Rick opened the door and looked disheveled and lethargic. While he took Zee to the garage, as he had been working on fixing his car, it was obvious that he did not plan on mining gold soon.

Rick confirmed this by telling Zee that he was okay and still standing, but that he hadn’t wanted to get up and return to mining after he crashed hard following the last season. He also stated that he believed that he had SAD or seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression that starts and ends around the same time every year. Rick admitted that it hit him hard because he never struggled with it and that he realized that he likely didn’t finish grieving his mother’s death. He revealed that he owns his mother’s home but left it untouched and hasn’t visited, so concluded that visiting it before the next mining season would give him closure.

He admitted to cheating in December 2022

The show’s viewers who follow Rick on social media learned that he began dating a woman named Leese Marie; the couple made their relationship official in November 2020. Leese stepped in when one of his crew members was injured two years later, highlighting that the couple announced their engagement on 21 October 2022 via Facebook. People were happy that Rick was looking for love, despite or perhaps because of his busy work schedule, and tragedy in his private life, and even involving Leese in the show.

Sadly, he ruined everything less than a month after the engagement, but at least he took accountability. Leese posted on TikTok on 22 November 2022, captioning the video, ‘Never looking back. Two years of mental and emotional abuse and countless times of cheating! I can’t do it anymore! I can’t stay silent anymore. God, please give me strength right now; I need you!’

Rick wrote a lengthy Facebook post on 2 December, saying that he’d ruined her plans and holidays and stepped out on her, an unforgivable sin, but that she continued forgiving him. He said that she should not be blamed for anything, because he was the problem and that she only ever tried to help him. Many were dismayed, rather than happy, when Rick posted a picture of him kissing her forehead on 2 January 2023; they got back together, and are still dating.

He bounced back this year

Fans should remember that the “Searching for Rick Ness” episode was filmed months before the premiere, so he had time to heal. Rick reflected on the source of his recent depression, evidently got closure, then asked Leese for forgiveness. He also told Zee that he knew people were counting on him, and planned to return and ‘kill the next mining season.’

Moreover, he revealed that he plans to return to work and the 14th season of “Gold Rush” through a Facebook post from 6 February 2023, where he sought ‘a fully licensed diesel mechanic with a fully tooled truck to bring to the job.’ He said that the job would be on a Yukon province mine site and happen seasonally, in this case, between early April and October.

Rick posted a job offer on Facebook again on 25 May, clarifying that he could not confirm the rumor that he’s returning to the show. However, he suggested that seeking several operators from all backgrounds and experiences, and posting the offer from his mining claim in Canada should prove that his operation is in full swing.

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