First Posted: 1/11/2009
LOWGAP Similar to a dogsled race from the Gold Rush days, replacing snow with mud, nearly 100 Boy Scouts traced along the rugged trails of Camp Raven Knob Saturday, tugging their sleds overflowing with supplies to various stations as they competed for the grand prize.
But the grand prize wasnt gold. It was earning points for demonstrating scoutcraft skills.
And along with those skills was another prize developing life lessons such as critical thinking and team work.
For 50 years, Boys Scouts of America (BSA) districts have held an annual Klondike Derby during the winter months. The winter competition is based on the heritage of the Klondike Gold Rush, in which a frenzy of gold rush immigration took place along the Klondike River near Dawson City, Yukon, Canada, after gold was discovered there in the late 19th century.
On Saturday, about 18 teams participated at 13 different skill-testing stations at Camp Raven Knob in Lowgap.
During the derby, which is typically a day-long event, scouts travel to various stations that test their skills such winter survival skills, fire building, first aid and outdoor cooking.
Greg and Laura Magaraci participated in the Klondike Derby as adult leaders for their sons patrol, Troop 561 from Shoals, which included about six boys from grades six to nine.
Its important for them to participate in this, said Laura Magaraci, whose eldest son, Mark, is a Boy Scout, while younger son, Jack, is a Cub Scout. I think its important because of the values instilled in them, and my husband and I support the religious undertones of the organization.
She added that she was interested in getting her sons involved because her brothers participation in the BSA as a child.
I kind of grew up with it. I had a brother who was an Eagle Scout, she said.
The troops day started strong as it conquered the trivia portion of the competition, but had its physical strength severely challenged during the Paul Bunyan test, when the scouts had to use a two-person saw to cut a piece of log.
It was hard, said Chris Moutos, 12.
His patrol leader, Jessie Mikels, 13, agreed, and added that the team worked well together, but he wasnt quite sure what the scouts strength as a team was.
I dont know, he shrugged.
But Greg Magaraci said he believed that each scout had a different strength that complimented the troop as a whole.
(Theyre) building team work. Theyll amaze you when they come together and you see how well they work, he said.
A few stations short of completing the entire course, the boys had to stop at the Pack Checking site where they had the gear on their sled checked to ensure they had brought essentials needed to survive outdoors.
One of the camp leaders stepped out of a cabin with pen and clipboard in hand ready to examine the boys sled.
Silence. One of the boys dug in the bag and flashed a little tube.
No, but we have conditioner.
Conditioner? the camp leader asked, while smiling. I dont know why a scout would need conditioner.
Greg Magaraci grinned, and said, Well, I guess the boys do have pretty hair.
Laughter ensued, and then the boys were off to their next mission tying knots.
Dragging their sled along the muddy gravel, the boys stopped at a cabin, where a tree in front had a long rope attached to it. The group completed the mission of demonstrating its ability to form various knots for different tasks in under five minutes, which earned a high score.
Laura Magaraci said she was impressed with the boys team work and their diligence.
But the next task didnt prove to be as easy.
The mission: To build a fire, make pancake batter, cook the pancake, eat it and then clean the supplies, all in 25 minutes.
After nearly 20 minutes, the boys had yet to start a fire.
They scrambled gathering leaves, dry wood, pieces of maple and pinecones to throw into a pile for a fire, but the flames wouldnt stay lit as the scouts unknowingly repeatedly smothered the fire.
Its OK, Kathy Murphy, a facilitator for the skill test, told the boys. They were one of four other groups who hadnt completed the task, which meant they didnt earn any points.
But she told them next year could yield different results, since theyll know what they should do differently.
The final task, Acid River, worked out better for the scouts. The goal was to use long wooden planks to lay across cinderblocks and walk across without touching the ground, which was the Acid River.
In less than the time they were allotted, the scouts, using only their muscles to lift the planks and duct tape to seal them together, successfully crossed the Acid River on their third try.
We did it! one of the scouts yelled, as high fives quickly followed along with more enthusiastic hollering.
Greg Magaraci said he was proud of the scouts working hard to conquer each task with perseverance, and that the Klondike Derbies provide an opportunity for scouts to apply their skills in a fun competition.
Its better than video games, he said, laughing.
Contact Erin C. Perkins at [email protected] or 719-1952.