Do you know the song “We’re Going North, the Rush is On?” In 1897 gold was discovered in the Klondike area of northwest Canada. It lies just to the east of Alaska. Over 100,000 people raced to the spot to try to find riches. I read that of the 100,000 who started, only 30,000 made it. They got there by all means, but most put their supplies on a sled pulled by dogs. Some got rich, but most did not.
In 1949, the Boy Scouts from the northern United States and Canada began their reenactment of the Klondike gold rush and called it the Klondike Derby. They built rough sleds, stashed their supplies, put in the lightest Scout and the rest of the unit, Webelos, or Venturers called themselves Huskies, tied by ropes attached to the sled, pulled the heavy sled through the snow as quickly as possible.
Although the Klondike Derby was never actually an official BSA function, it had a very specific reason for being. A winter activity was needed to make the boys use their heads. So, they can use their Scouting skills in the field, demonstrate their teamwork, and build Scout spirit. But, most of all, they can enjoy the outdoors on cold winter days.
The derby takes place in a huge open field on a farm or a park. Of course there must be lots of snow. Each patrol leader is given a map to follow which brings them to 6-12 “towns.” In each “town” they are given tasks learned from Scouting. They are judged and aided by the “town major” and given “golden nuggets” as prizes according to their expertise. They proceed from town to town, doing difficult tasks. Each “town” provides them with hot food and drink. Two teams are usually at a “town” at the same time.
The units can use their golden nuggets to purchase Derby patches, or something they want. The grand winner gets a large golden nugget trophy which is passed on to the winning team each year. Of course this might look different in different parts of the country, but you get the idea.
I think it should be assumed that this activity takes a great deal of preparation. Everyone must be prepared for extreme cold, have adequate supplies, and extra dry provisions. Here’s a great check list for how to plan and run your own Klondike Derby. Two adults must accompany each unit. One of these adults must be over 21. It goes without saying, you gotta love the cold.
What do you do for Klondikes?