Yokota's Troop 45 blazes a trail at annual Klondike Derby
Yokota’s Boy Scouts of America Troop 45 had their sleds in full gear during the Klondike Derby held Feb. 19 – 21 at the Scout Association of Japan’s camp near Lake Yamanaka.
This year’s theme was “Blazing the Japan Iditarod” and that’s exactly what over 150 Scouts did during the annual competition and campout.
A Klondike Derby is held by Boy Scouts of America and Scouts Canada districts during the winter months and is based on the heritage of the Klondike Gold Rush. The most famous event in the history of Alaskan mushing is the 1925 serum run to Nome, also known as the "Great Race of Mercy." Boy Scouts of America units have been running Klondike derbies in the States since 1949 and the tradition continues in Japan.
On Saturday, each "Dog Team" transported their gear on a homemade sled pulled by scouts. They were sent on a journey north with checkpoints on the way as outlined on a map/score sheet; each team was also given a serum bottle. At each checkpoint, the team encountered a practical problem involving basic scouting skills, such as wilderness rescue first aid and fire building, and other challenges to include tomahawk throwing, blind maze, and a simulated river crossing.
The teams’ performance at each checkpoint determined how much serum they earned. After the final checkpoint, the teams raced to turn in their serum. The fastest times and the amount of serum turned in determined the winners for various awards.
As the Troop 45 Senior Patrol Leader, Life Scout Riley Johnson had a lot of responsibility, but he also had plenty of experience to prepare for the challenge. His time with Scouts began in 3rd grade as a Bear Scout at Yokota and he’s been with Troop 45 for the last six years. This was his third Klondike.
“I finally had my first chance to attend a campout as part of the staff. It was interesting seeing all the activities that I have participated in so many times from another perspective,” Johnson said. “Getting to see how other teams cooperated and worked together will help me teach my troops to do the same.”
There are 30 Boy Scouts in Troop 45, according to Scout Master Robert Hawthorne, who is no stranger to the Klondike Derby and has been with the Yokota Scouts since 2013. Not only did he compete as a Scout in Pennsylvania, but he joined his oldest son at the Kandersteg International Scout Center in Switzerland, and participated in the last two in Japan.
“Like all campouts, we let the Scouts lead. Sometimes the chaos of letting Scouts do the planning and preparation is difficult,” Hawthorne said. “But they need to experience both successes and failures with their plan. The adults will intervene if safety is an issue and make recommendations on a way forward, but the scouts need to prove to themselves that they can accomplish a task by training and planning for the event.”
Troop 45 is part of the Asia East District, which is made up of about 800 Scouts and serves all of mainland Japan and includes units in Iwakuni, Misawa, Sasebo, Yokosuka, Yokota, and Zama, as well as in Kobe, Nagoya, and Tokyo.
Asia East District Executive John Cuenin served as Camp Director for the Klondike Derby. He, too, is no stranger to Boy Scouts of America or the annual Klondike event. His 19 years of experience started as a 1st grade Cub Scout and includes seven Klondikes as a Scout - three in Switzerland - and two as an adult leader near Mount Fuji and in Nagano, Japan.
“We are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to help the Boy Scout program, if anyone is interested in helping, they can reach out to me at email@example.com,” said Cuenin.