Scouts brave cold to learn survival skills

Tom Joyce Staff Reporter

January 19, 2014

Boy Scout Trevor Antwine of Troop 591 in Dobson was participating in a “Monkey Balls” event Saturday during the Klondike Derby at Camp Raven Knob near Lowgap, one of 17 activities designed to teach survival skills in the wild.

The object of “Monkey Balls” appeared to be trying to toss yellow tennis balls, that had been tied together, into a container — which one scout leader likened to the game of horseshoes.

He explained that it’s an exercise to teach hand-eye coordination, which can be a helpful skill in any setting — especially in the woods if a wrong move could be a matter of life and death.

As it turned out, “Monkey Balls” was one of the less-demanding events faced by about 140 area scouts Saturday during the annual Klondike Derby, after camping out Friday night and being aroused by “Reveille” at 7 a.m.

The scouts, representing 21 different troops from the Dogwood and Laurel scouting districts covering Surry and Yadkin counties, also were faced with running dogsleds (without dogs), knot-tying, making fires, cooking meals, compass reading, leaf and tree identification and more.

Klondike Derby participants rotated among the 17 different stations set up along trails at the massive Camp Raven Knob complex, which also covered first-aid and other skills. Some “fun-type events” were mixed in as well, said Adam Atkins, the Dogwood District program chairman.

The scouts were divided into 19 different patrols with colorful names such as “Team Twerk,” “Naked Mole Rats,” “God’s Bologna,” “I Just Got Up” and “Super Special Awesome Patrol” and competed for the best scores during the events.

For Trevor Antwine, 16, who was participating in the Klondike Derby for the fifth year, it has equipped him with confidence, combined with other experiences such as meeting a wilderness survival requirement for a merit badge.

“I’ve learned a lot,” the Dobson scout said.

When asked how he might fare if suddenly finding himself alone in the bitter cold wilderness, the youth replied, “I’d stand an 80 percent chance of survival.”

Rooted In Alaska

Establishing a high degree of preparation for what one can encounter in the Great Outdoors was precisely the goal of the Klondike Derby that has been an annual staple for area scouters for many winters.

Boy Scouts across the country hold Klondike Derbys, which were first inspired by the exploits of early residents of the frozen Alaskan wilderness who raced across the countryside by means of dogs and sleds.

The 140 youths participating in the 2014 version at Camp Raven Knob were joined by around 60 adult leaders. The Klondike Derby got under way with registration Friday afternoon and was to conclude this morning.

On Saturday morning when the seven-hour session of events began, temperatures were only in the low 30s and a stiff wind was blowing. Overnight Friday, it was even colder.

“It got into the mid-teens,” reported Daron Atkins of Pilot Mountain, a longtime scouter who helped organize the Klondike Derby.

“And that’s the whole idea,” Atkins added of the survival aspect of the gathering. “That’s what scouting is all about — experiencing the world, not reading about it.”

A Team Thing

Along with individual survival skills, teamwork among the scouts was emphasized during the Klondike Derby.

This was highlighted by one strange-sounding event called the “Remote Clove Hitch,” one of numerous knot games available to scouts. It was even more strange-looking, with the groups of boys tying a thick rope to a tree and seemingly running around in circles.

But there was a distinct purpose involved, according to veteran scout Weston Mosley of Troop 505 in Dobson, which hosted that event. This revolves around the mechanics of the Remote Clove Hitch, for which a circle of a 10-foot radius is marked around a tree.

The patrol has a 50-foot rope, and at a signal, ties a clove hitch tight around the tree without stepping inside the 10-foot circle. No tools other than the rope may be used, with the winning patrol the one taking the least time to complete the tie.

“Everyone knows how to tie the clove hitch,” Weston pointed out, “but nobody knows how to tie it out of the circle.” The scouts must work together to perfect the technique. “So it’s kind of team building,” the Dobson scout added.

Whenever a group of young people gathers, cell phones or gaming devices usually aren’t far behind, which wasn’t the case Saturday.

“I haven’t seen a one all day,” Daron Atkins said of cell phones.

Such items were discouraged, but not banned, from this weekend’s Klondike Derby, although the scouting official guessed that most every boy had brought a cell phone along.

“But on a day like this, they don’t take them out — they’re having too much fun.”

Winners announced

Atkins announced the winners at the end of the day.

Overall winner from Pilot Mountain Troop 545 is The Hammerhead Patrol team; second place, Troop 538 of Mount Airy, The Viking Patrol team; third place, Troop 538, The Man Scouts; best sled design, Troop 648 of Elkin, The Mustang Patrol.

Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or