Brian Weed was just looking to find people with similar interests in hiking and exploring mine tunnels in Alaska.
What he got, along with Joe McCabe, Greg Taylor and Adam DiPietro, is a television pilot, “Alaska Treasure Hunters” airing 10 p.m. Wednesday on Travel Channel.
“It can really be hard when you are a middle-aged man to meet people with similar interest unless you go to a bar, so I created the Juneau Hidden History Facebook page,” Weed said.
Initially, Weed wanted to use the hikes as research for a book. While the grant for his book fell through, interest in the Facebook group grew.
McCabe and Weed — who started the group — soon received a request from Taylor to join in on the hikes and exploration. DiPietro has been a member for the last two years. The group sets up hikes around Juneau while guiding those in attendance on the different historical and environmental landmarks on the journey.
There is also a fifth member of the group,Weed’s dog “A dog named Kat” or just “Kat” for short. Kat is treated just like one of the members on the show. A GoPro is attached to her head and she films her hikes just like the others.
“There is not another show that really treats a dog like a real cast member,” Weed said. “She goes into smaller tunnels and barks to help keep the wildlife away.”
The group has now grown to nearly 8,000 members over about five years. While not everyone who is a member on the Facebook page actually joins in on the hikes, those who do, have found more than mines.
“I met my wife, Ildi, at a Thanksgiving potluck for Juneau’s Hidden History members,” McCabe said. “Brian married us exactly a year later. I took Ildi to the Jeff & Russel mine on our first date. JHH has changed our lives.”
“None of us would have ever met if it wasn’t for the group,” Weed added.
As response from fellow hikers grew, so too did the interest in the group from television production companies. However, at first there just did not seem like there was going to be a match.
“They always asked us ‘How much drama is in the group?’” Weed said. “They would ask if we would see anything spooky in the caves. If they were asking questions like that, we knew they were not what we wanted.”
Finally, a production company came along with nearly the same ideas as the group.
“We told them we did not want to be another Alaska reality show,” Weed said.
The group said current and former Alaska reality shows shine a bad light on the state. The idea with “Alaska Treasure Hunters” — considered a “docu-follow” — is to give people a real look at what they do, without made-up drama.
“There is a part in the first episode where I get stuck, so I say ‘I’m stuck,’” Weed said. “And that was it. It was not played up.”
One of those real moments also happens when the group goes exploring and DiPietro, who was handpicked by the producers based on background in engineering, science and math, finds a petroglyph — a prehistoric rock carving — on one of the group’s hikes and his reaction on the episode is filmed in the moment.
“I really did just find it on the show,” DiPietro said.
The show, the group hopes, will act as a showcase of all the hidden wonders of Alaska. While, the premier episode, “Finding the Lost Rocker Mine,” is the only one filmed, Weed said he has plenty of ideas if the show is picked up by the network.
“We want to show what Alaska is really all about,” Weed said. “We want to hike all over Alaska and find things that very few people know about.”
“We want to show epic Alaska,” DiPietro added.
• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.