Every other year, the troop participates in a council wide event called the Klondike Derby. Most councils in the cold regions of the US (and Canada) hold some version of this race. It's held at the same scout reservation as the Highland Games. And as in years past, we only go for the Saturday events, rather than camping the entire weekend (26 January). A lot of troops do camp, but I'll bet they were sorry they did this year. More on that later.
The Klondike Derby is an homage to the dog sledders of the Iditarod and the Klondike Gold Rush. Each patrol (and we had 2 this year) has a dog sled with tow rope for the "dogs" to pull the sled. The troop is given a list of gear needed for each sled as well as a general idea of the events that the scouts will be participating in. There were seven events this year, and each patrol would participate in three of them - but wouldn't know which ones until the day of the event. The patrols compete in groups of three (two patrols from other troops) and are awarded "gold nuggets" by each event organizer at their discretion. They take into account teamwork, sportsmanship and skill in awarding the nuggets. The nuggets are weighed at the end of the event to determine the winners. First, second and third in each group, so everyone is a winner. And to really torment the scouts, the nuggets are gold wrapped candy.
We spent the last few meetings honing scout skills such as knot tying, fire building and first aid. The sleds were built years ago and are in very good shape.
Because we weren't camping, we had to travel down to the camp on Friday night for a pre-event meeting. And of course, there was a small snow storm. We ended up getting a couple of inches that night with the temperature in the teens. Me, the scoutmaster, Simple J and the Pudge drove down (on some icy roads) to attend the meeting. Fortunately, it's only about a ten mile ride. And it was cold. I felt sorry for those poor bastards at the meeting that were camping.
We gathered the boys at our church bright and early at 7:00AM on Saturday morning. It was a balmy 15 degrees. Opening ceremonies started at 8:00AM at the camp. There were probably two dozen or so sleds entered in the event.
|As soon as we arrived at camp, the boys got the sleds out of the van and started puling it over to the parade field. This was sled #2 with a lot of our younger scouts.|
|This was sled #1 with the Pudge (he's the one with the white ski tag on his chest) and the more senior scouts (including Simple J on the far right).|
I followed the Pudge's patrol around for the day. Their first event was the frozen lake crossing. They had to use materials they packed (rope, staves, etc.) to build a rig that would allow them to take their sled across the "frozen lake" (tarp) with out the sled touching the lake. The scouts were allow to walk on the lake but it wouldn't support the sled and the scouts at the same time. They ended up rigging a line between two trees.
|The first station was the frozen lake crossing exercise.|
Their second event was archery. Although they all love archery, what made this tough was they had to take their gloves off to shoot. They did really well in this event.
The third and final event was the shepherd's sling (think David and Goliath). They had 30 minutes to sling as many small super balls as they could at a stack of cups. They received points for each cup they knocked down. Pretty simple, right? Two other patrols were in the gaming area the same time as our patrol, and between them they knocked down 4 cups. But our patrol had a secret weapon - Simple J. He is a tall, awkward boy that can barely walk, but he knocked down over 20 cups. It was a good day for him.
|The second station was the archery range. That's the Pudge shooting. He put his first arrow over the dirt backstop. |
|The third station was the shepherd's sling. The camp has a wooden "Fort Apache" type fort and this event was inside the fort. I'm on the upper level looking down into the fort. |
Lunch Time! Every scout (and leader) that participates in the Klondike is required to bring a can of soup (tomato or broth based) with them. All of the cans are dumped into two large pots for the "Commissioner's Soup". Scouts bring up their cups/bowls/thermal mugs and get their choice of soup - as much as they want. It's surprisingly good - when you've been standing out in 20 degree weather for 5 hours.
|Here's the fort from the outside (courtesy of the Southern New Jersey Council site).|
|The boys taking a well deserved rest at lunch time.|
One of the small ponds on the reservation. I thought it unusual that so many ducks were in the water.
|Oh My God! Someone save those poor ducks! Relax, they're just decoys.|
After lunch, the boys practiced their wood cutting skills by sawing logs with two-man saws and log splitting with hatchets and axes. The wood was used for the evening bond fire, which we did not attend.
Then came the final activity of the day - the Iditarod Race. This is a sled race from the lower parking lot up to the parade field. It's about a 1/2 mile with about a 40 foot elevation change. The boys raced in groups of 3. Sled #1 (the Pudge's) race looked like a scene from Ben Hur or Gladiator. Their sled runner got caught with another sled, and that sled flipped over, dumping all of it's gear. One of the other sled's boys got hooked on the side rail of sled #1 and he was dragged several feet. Fortunately, no one got hurt and sled#1 won the heat. Sled #2 came in second in their heat.
|See, the ducks are fine.|
|The boys resting up for the dreaded Iditarod Race.|
All said and done, after the nuggets were weighed, both Sled #1 and Sled #2 came away with 2nd place finishes. A fine effort on a really cold day. The boys took consolation in the fact that they were going home and the 1st place teams were camping out that night. The temperature topped out at 27 degrees!
The Pudge and I couldn't stay for the awards ceremony because The Mrs bought tickets to see Heart down in Atlantic City that night. I got home, showered (and thawed - my feet were frozen) and off we went to AC (no ticket for the Pudge). And I'm glad we saw the concert. We had good seats and Ann Wilson sounded great. They encored with Led Zeppelin's Black Dog and that was a great song to end on. I slept pretty good by the time we got home - at midnight. A long day in the Yukon!
|The boys of sled #1 (on the right) sprinting from the start of the Iditarod race. I'm actually backpeddling as I'm taking this picture because they came at me so fast.|