Chippewa Herald * February 13, 2008

Winter weather doesn't stop outdoor Scouting fun

by Tom Arneberg, Community Columnist

Baby, it's cold outside! It seems like ages since the premature melting of our home igloo, but the calendar says it's only been five weeks. We could have used some of those forty degree temperatures this weekend!

We did see the forties, but it was on the wrong side of zero -- forty-below wind-chills. Not the best weekend for a Boy Scout campout. At least we had four walls and a heater; we managed to keep it above 55 inside the eight-man cabins the whole time.

That doesn't count doing dishes outside, though, where the constant battle was to keep the wash water from freezing. Or using the out-houses with the walls a foot off the ground that do nothing to stop the winds from swirling in. I don't know how the pioneers did that every day! (There is no mention of latrines in the Little House on the Prairie books, not even in "The Long Winter.")

Despite the bitter cold, our Troop 72 Scouts still had a great weekend at the Fred C. Andersen Scout Reservation on the banks of the St. Croix River, just north of Stillwater.

Yes, it did get annoying when four of our five vehicles would not start on Sunday morning! In fact, the engine of our big yellow church van would not turn over even when a tow truck tried helping. We had already checked out and made alternate plans to haul our 22 Scouts and Scouters back to Chippewa Falls, when we decided to try one last trick on the way out.

Assistant Scoutmaster Rod Schrader crawled on his back under the van with the best weapon in our arsenal -- a hatchet. Rather than taking out his frustration on the vulnerable underside of the beast, however, he used the blunt end of the blade to whack the starter while I turned the key.

To our amazement, it actually started this time! The hours of trying to jump it with three other vehicles (and the tow truck) had apparently charged the battery plenty; the starter just needed a little coaxing.

We got back safe and sound (and finally warm), a couple hours later than expected, but grateful that we didn't have to drive another 200 miles later this week to retrieve the Banana Bus.

We were also glad that the bitter cold didn't hit until Saturday night, when we were cozy in our cabins recuperating from sledding and enjoying the patrol cook-off competition. And relieved that we didn't have this weather in the Klondike Derby two weeks ago.

The Klondike was held at L.E. Phillips Scout Reservation, about ten miles northwest of Rice Lake. Unlike this weekend's troop outing, that was a major event with dozens of troops gathering from all over northwest Wisconsin.

In fact, over 300 Scouts ("Stampeders") participated, competing in 37 different sled teams. Another 60 adults helped man the event, with four grownups at each of 13 different "towns" along the way, another four cooking chili for lunch, and three photographers.

The mastermind behind the Klondike Derby was Dave Linse, Scoutmaster of another troop in Chippewa Falls, Troop 75. Dave produced a Klondike last year for our district, and it was so successful that it was expanded to our entire Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

The Klondike is named after the gold rush of 1896, when thousands of prospectors flooded the Klondike River in the Yukon Territory looking to strike it rich. Some came prepared; some didn't.

"Stampeders had to carry a year's supply of goods -- about a ton, more than half of it food -- over the passes to be allowed to enter Canada," according to Wikipedia. The good old Canadian Mounties were on hand to enforce that regulation.

The Boy Scout stampeders didn't have to haul quite that much, but each patrol did push their own home-made sleds along the 1.5-mile course, loaded down with supplies to get them through the day -- tinder to start fires, first aid kits, blankets, drinking water, rope.

Each "town" presented two different challenges. Some required a Scout to navigate a rope bridge to retrieve a gold nugget in the middle of a creek without falling in. Other challenges included the fox-chicken-corn puzzle (acted out in real life), fire-building contests, slingshot shooting, "Norwegian skiing," the "Ravine of Death," and many more.

We were feeling smug that the weather for the January 25-27 Klondike was beautiful, only one week after sub-zero temps and three days before more sub-zero temps.

This past weekend, we finally got caught in the cross-hairs of Mother Nature, who scored a direct hit on us.

All I know is that when I got home Sunday afternoon, a hot shower never felt so good.

Not to mention, uh, other indoor plumbing.

See photos of our last two winter campouts:
Klondike Derby | Fred C. Andersen

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