Klondike Derby teaches outdoor survival skills

SYCAMORE – For Austin Petrie, the best part of the Kishwaukee District Klondike Derby was the sled jousting, a new event that used shopping carts on skis.

“This is actually my first time and I didn’t know Klondike was going to be this much fun,” said Petrie, 9, of Cortland.

He also “learned a lot of stuff about first aid” as well as how to use a compass.

The snowy conditions Saturday fit in with the Klondike Derby's underlying purpose, said event coordinator Tom Barone, who also is scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 26 in Kirkland. Barone, of Fairdale, dressed in an imitation Voyageur outfit made of a wool blanket coat, called a capote, and high moccasins, during the event at the Sycamore Sportsman's Club..

“Part of what we try to teach the boys is how to survive in weather like this, so if something should happen and they’re caught out there in the middle of a blizzard, they can realize that they’re not going to die; there are ways to keep warm until you can get help," Barone said. "Hopefully, they’ll never have to use it.”

Competitive events emphasizing survival skills included sled racing, fire building, log cutting, first aid, navigating with a map and compass, animal track identification, shooting a .22 caliber rifle for older scouts, and snapper (mouse trap) fishing.

Many scouts also enjoyed the unofficial events of snowball fighting, parking lot ice skating, and fireside joke-telling. 

“We let boys be boys,” said Barone. “You get a 10-, 11-, 12-year-old boy, you let him play with fire, you let him do slingshots, you let him race dogsleds and have a snowball fight – a 10-,12-year-old boy, you can’t have more fun than that. And we teach him some things along the way that might help him to be a better citizen; you hope some of that soaks in, in-between the fun.”

Overall, scouting teaches traits boys won't learn in other organizations, said Derek Wild, 14, from Troop 39 in Waterman.

“It teaches you how to deal with other people, how to lead, how to be respectful to each other," Wild said. "It really teaches you just good traits that you can use throughout your whole life.”

In addition to the events during the day Saturday, many of the scouting groups also camped overnight in tents. Some, including Barone, slept in snow caves they dug themselves.

“It’s amazing how warm it stays," Barone said. "I was sitting there in just skivvies, wool socks, and a stocking cap.”

Camping provided the most difficult challenge of the day, however, for several scouts like Michael Geiger, 14, of Sycamore.

“Most of the time you stay up late and then the next day it’s really hard to get up and get going," Geiger said. "That’s probably the hardest [thing I had to do].”

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