Boy Scouts Navigate Grass, Not Snow, at The Klondike Derby in Watchung Reservation

Wolverine Patrol of Troop 23 in Elizabeth takes a lunch break. The troop couldn't make it on the scheduled day, so came on Jan. 27. Two patrols will likely attend in two weeks. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Scouts from Troop 104 in Scotch Plains participated in the 2018 Klondike Derby at Watchung Reservation on Saturday. Credits: Jon Joshua
Owl Patrol from Troop 104 in Scotch Plains participated in the 2018 Klondike Derby at Watchung Reservation on Saturday. Credits: Jon Joshua
Scouts from Troop 104 in Scotch Plains participated in the 2018 Klondike Derby at Watchung Reservation on Saturday. Credits: Jon Joshua
Adult leaders of Boy Scout Troop 104 Scotch Plains/Fanwood posed for a commemorative photo behind their grill. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Everyone enters and leaves the course under this sign. Credits: Noel Downey
Scouts from Troop 104 in Scotch Plains participated in the 2018 Klondike Derby at Watchung Reservation on Saturday. Credits: Jon Joshua
Members of Berkeley Heights Boy Scout Troop 368 put up a tent at Pelly Crossing in the Watchung Reservation during the Klondike Derby. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Once the tent is pitched, it's time to cut up wood, make a fire and cook lunch. Scouts from Troop 368 of Berkeley Heights dined on hotdogs. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Members of Boy Scout Troop 235 of North Plainfield stopped at Pelly Crossing for lunch. As did the other Scouts, they pitched a tent, built a fire and made their own lunch. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Pelly Crossing Mayor Mike Cantone adds the fire from Troop 235 to his own fire. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Members of Basking Ridge Boy Scout Troop 351 finished their lunch with some hot chocolate, after they built a fire, cooked hotdogs and boiled water at Pelly Crossing. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Before leaving the town, Scouts win 'gold nuggets' after their work, cooking and cleaning up, is assessed by the judges. Troop 351 picked up five nuggets for their stay at Pelly Crossing. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
From left are members of the Pelly Crossing 'government' for the day -- Russell Doucette, Mike Cantone, Mike Fogarty and Kriste Hauser, all from Troop 228 of Warren Township. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
The town of 'Distress' is a stop for the Webelos who take part in the Klondike Derby. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
A Webelo Troop from Westfield shows their Scouting spirit at Distress. Credits: B
Members of the Webelo Troop from Westfield wave their arms to demonstrate how to make themselves visible in the wilderness. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Troop 273 of Westfield had lots of food to share with other Scouts after a leader dropped off some goodies. They had finished the trek with their sled 'Natural Disasters,' manned by nine Scouts. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Troop 59 of Stirling makes its way down the hill to the end of the course. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Troop 56 of Long Hill accumulated 61 nuggets on its Klondike adventure. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
The all important transport for equipment belongs to Troop 23 in Elizabeth. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
A group of leaders check on the rankings, which for the first time were posted on a digital display. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Early results...lots of teams had not yet finished. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
The data crunchers at work. Members of Troop 72 of Westfield does the score board and members of Troop 73 records the scores. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Troop 32 of Watchung is checked in at the finish. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Once the sled is weighed in, every item on the check list has to still be in the sled. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Credits: Barbara Rybolt
The scale tells the tale. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
More troops arrive at the finish. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Warren Boy Scouts take a break from pulling the sled across the grass to another town in the Klondike Derby at the Watchung Reservation. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Westfield Boy Scouts enjoy a homemade lunch at the 'town' of Pelly Crossing while at the Klondike Derby in the Watchung Reservation on Saturday, Jan. 27. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Eagle, a town 'run' by Mountainside Boy Scout leaders was were Scouts tried their hand at ax-throwing. On one side of the access road they taught safety, on the other, the Scouts aimed at targets. Credits: Barbara Rybolt

MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – No snow…no problem. Whether it snows or not, there will be a Klondike Derby and, on Saturday the derby took place, with not even a snowflake to be seen, much less a snowbank.

Dozens of teams pulled, pushed and, in some cases, carried sleds throughout The Loop area of the reservation. At each stop on their map, they were judged for specific skills – pitching a tent, making a fire, cooking, boiling water, throwing an ax and a number of other skills. 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 you will be seen and a point taken away.

Check-in started early in the morning and, if you were late, there were penalty points. Each penalty point subtracts from the number of ‘gold nuggets’ your team will win.

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Wooden sleds, which must weigh at least 100 pounds at the start, are weighed and all required equipment is checked – literally, checked off, on a list. When each sled returns, it has to weigh at least 75 pounds, and each item on the list is checked off a second time. There’s no dropping pots and pans, blankets or such off to lose some weight from the sled.

The team with the most nuggets earned will win.

Scouts primarily from the Watchung Mountain District of the Patriot’s Path Council took part in the annual Klondike Derby at the Watchung Reservation on Saturday. Groups from Berkeley Heights, Mountainside, Westfield, Scotch Plains/Fanwood, Stirling, North Plainfield, Warren, Watchung, Basking Ridge, Sparta, and Elizabeth sent teams.

While most of the adult leaders enjoyed the warmer weather and lack of snow, everyone agreed that for the boys and for them, a reasonable amount of snow makes for a better experience. The operative word here is “reasonable.” Old hands at the derby told tales of sub-zero temperatures, howling winds and snowflakes. They were grateful for Saturday’s good weather and didn’t mind the occasional run-in with mud.

There will be another Klondike Derby on Feb. 3, for the Raritan Valley District, which includes Plainfield, and yet a third one on Feb. 10, for troops from the Munsee District, which includes troops from Clark, Cranford, Elizabeth, Hillside, Kenilworth, Linden, Rahway, Roselle, Roselle Park, Springfield, Union and Winfield Park.

When the Derby is going on, the reservation is still open to the public and there were lots of people taking advantage of the good weather to use the playground and walk around The Loop and on trails on Saturday. It’s also an opportunity to see Scouts in action.

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