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.
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.