MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – Clark Boy Scout Troop 145 trekked through torrential rains, stomped through puddles and slid down muddy paths during the annual Klondike Derby at the Watchung Reservation recently.
They joined dozens of teams as they sloshed their way through the windy and rain-driven Loop area of the reservation. There is a set course, with specific tasks to be done at each town the troop visits. Time counts, as does Scout spirit, attention to detail and safety. Use an ax carelessly and points are taken away.
At each stop on their map, scouts were judged for specific skills such as pitching a tent, making a fire, cooking, boiling water, throwing an ax and a number of other skills.
Check-in started early in the morning and late arrivals were greeted with penalty points. Each penalty point subtracts from the number of ‘gold nuggets’ a team wins.
Traditionally, wooden sleds, which must weigh at least 100 pounds at the start, are weighed and all required equipment is checked off on a list. However, due to the weather conditions, leaders had scouts carry all the items in back packs and leave the sleds out of the race. The decision was made so the boys would not tear up the landscape and ruin the terrain of the Loop area for future visitors by dragging heavy sleds across wet grounds.
To win the Klondike, teams need to earn the most nuggets. The Wolverine Patrol from Clark’s Troop 145 tied for fourth place this year. Their Rogue Patrol took ninth place and the Avengers were in nineteenth place at the end of the day.
As part of the event, troops collect food items to donate to the needy. This year, over 2500 cans of food were collected to be donated to three food pantries.
Scouts primarily from troops from the Munsee District, including troops from Clark, Cranford, Elizabeth, Hillside, Kenilworth, Linden, Rahway, Roselle, Roselle Park, Springfield, Union and Winfield Park participated in the derby.
Klondike Derbies are held on Saturdays from late January through February each year. Various districts meet each weekend and compete for fun and bragging rights.
When the Derby is going on, the reservation remains open and the public is welcome to watch the scouts in action.
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