Union County News

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

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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
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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
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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
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Troop 235 of North Plainfield. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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A Scout from Troop 235 brings the remains of the group's fire to the 'Mayor's office' at Pelly Crossing. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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Pelly Crossing Mayor Mike Cantone adds the fire from Troop 235 to his own fire. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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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
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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
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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
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The town of 'Distress' is a stop for the Webelos who take part in the Klondike Derby. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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Adult leaders of Boy Scout Troop 104 Scotch Plains/Fanwood posed for a commemorative photo behind their grill. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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A Webelo Troop from Westfield shows their Scouting spirit at Distress. Credits: B
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Members of the Webelo Troop from Westfield wave their arms to demonstrate how to make themselves visible in the wilderness. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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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
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Troop 59 of Stirling makes its way down the hill to the end of the course. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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Troop 56 of Long Hill accumulated 61 nuggets on its Klondike adventure. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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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
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The all important transport for equipment belongs to Troop 23 in Elizabeth. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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Elizabeth Troop 23's cooking equipment. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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A group of leaders check on the rankings, which for the first time were posted on a digital display. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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Early results...lots of teams had not yet finished. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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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
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Millington Troop 56 pulls into the check out station. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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Troop 32 of Watchung is checked in at the finish. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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Everyone enters and leaves the course under this sign. Credits: Noel Downy
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Once the sled is weighed in, every item on the check list has to still be in the sled. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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The scale tells the tale. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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More troops arrive at the finish. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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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
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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
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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
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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 Hills Division of the Patriot’s Path Council took part in the annual Klondike Derby at the Watchung Reservation on Saturday. It wasn’t easy to catch every group, but groups from Berkeley Heights, Mountainside, Westfield, Scotch Plains/Fanwood, Millington and Stirling in Long Hill Township, North Plainfield, Warren and Watchung were spotted. Basking Ridge and Sparta also sent teams, as did Elizabeth, which sent one patrol, which had a conflict with the assigned date.

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 made 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 one bit.

Members of Troop 56 of Long Hill finished the course relatively early. Asked which they preferred, no snow or snow, and they all agreed, “Snow. It’ makes the sleds go faster.” The Klondike Derby is a “prep for an Adirondack trip” the troop will take in February, one of the Scouts said.

Jeff Healey, one of the leaders from Mountainside, was waiting for another sled to arrive at the ax throwing site. Asked how the day was going, he said, “Fantastic … There’s chili, hot dogs, throwing axes. It’s a great day.”

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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