Last summer and during this past year on Discovery's Friday-night reality hit
and his crew have pitted themselves against jungles in South America, from Peru to Guyana, and he's had his head handed to him all along the way.
In Guyana, he switched focus from gold to diamonds, working against a deadline before the claim owner pulled the plug. But there's a moment in Friday's (Feb. 21) episode where Hoffman -- a risk-taker and optimist -- feels utterly defeated.
Once again, the jungle has the last word.
"You always think the other guys are idiots," Hoffman tells
, "and you're always smarter than they are. Can't tell us what to do, we know that. I've learned that sometimes you think that you've covered all your bases, but when you go into a country that doesn't play by the same rules, there's just no way to see what's coming at you. That was on the mining end.
"I also learned that I can't be away from my family, and that I'd rather be broke and poor than be away from my family again like that, that kind of a stretch. So that was tough, being away from my kids, my wife."
Hoffman also sheds some tears.
"I guess you're not supposed to cry," Hoffman says. "I guess I'm the first guy who's cried on Discovery Channel."
Hoffman continues, "You're supposed to be mean and tough, but when I signed up for reality TV, I'm OK with showing my heart. This year was horrible. They kind of catch everything with me.
"My purpose for being on TV is completely different from Parker's or Dakota Fred's" -- referring to fellow miners
Parker Schnabel and
Fred Hurt -- "in that I want to be able to encourage people not only in my success ... $1.2 million in gold last year. Also, if things are going bad, that I can also encourage people or at least let them know that they're not the only one who goes through trials and tribulations."
Asked if he can come back (and he will, at least on television, since the two-part season finale airs March 7 and 14), Hoffman says, "You know what, we're going to find out. The measure of a person is if you can get up and go at it again, or is it just too overwhelming? Is it just too much to do it again?"
Some say that you learn the most about yourself when you're either on your knees or flat on your back, but Hoffman says "We were more like on our face."
"I know that it looks pretty horrible, but there were some things that God was able to teach us in the jungle that were far more important than gold and diamonds."
Hoffman also mentions another dark time in his life, when his wife left him for a while.
"The camera crew really didn't want me to say that," he says, "because you're not supposed to talk about things like your faith, and you're not really supposed to talk about marriage problems. But how many of us, in our day-to-day life, that really does affect our lives. A lot of us have had marriage troubles, and a lot of us have had times when we felt like failures. So you really have to rely on God.
"So, that line, that's really what I wanted to say. Usually they want different lines, so they can pick and choose, but that line was from my heart. Sometimes we get our a** kicked, and it's what we can learn and what we do, that whole situation, that is going to determine our futures."
You can see some of what Hoffman was up against in this exclusive clip from the episode:
"Gold Rush" airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT Friday on Discovery.