As they experienced several days off of school, the excitement only grew for members of Independence Boy Scout Troop 738 as a layer of snow covered the ground.

As they experienced several days off of school, the excitement only grew for members of Independence Boy Scout Troop 738 as a layer of snow covered the ground.

By Saturday morning, the snow was packed down and the weather was just cold enough for the backdrop of the Blue Elk Klondike Derby at George Owens Nature Park in Independence.

When questioned, a handful of the 500 Boy Scouts present and several of their leaders had just one word in describing the atmosphere: Perfect.

Usually, some of the boys said, the weather is rainy or the trails at George Owens are muddy, which don’t present the best conditions for pulling their sleds. The sleds are the annual event’s mainstay, and the troop members are responsible for assembling them prior to the Klondike Derby.

“Some years, it’s been really icy, and that’s not always the best,” said 16-year-old Caleb Stockham.

The daylong event featured troops from across the Eastern Jackson County area competing for “gold nuggets” in events like archery, building a survival shelter and the ravine crossing. In fire building/cooking, patrol members had to light a fire based on their skill level. Then, the boys had to cook an omelet over their fire.

“The theme is kind of the Gold Rush days in Alaska,” said Grant Dealy, district director of the Blue Elk District.

Patrol sleds were inspected and were judged prior to the event for their practicality and innovation. Certain equipment also was required on the sleds.

Some troop members hardly seemed fazed by the cold weather, such as 16-year-old Scott Sickles, who wore a T-shirt over a long-sleeved black thermal shirt and a Yoda stocking cap, but no coat. In his sixth year at Klondike Derby, Sickles said he requested membership with the patrol of younger members in Troop 738.

“I like to teach little kids, and it’s a lot more fun than doing boring work with the older Scouts,” said Sickles, who has earned the nickname “Skis” from his fellow troop members because of his size-16 feet.

In his first year as a Boy Scout, 11-year-old Drake Ealey said he considers Sickles a role model because he taught the Scouts how to build a fire and what is included in the essentials of first aid.

“And he takes us outside all the time,” Ealey continued.  

According to Independence resident Marvin Sands, the Boy Scouts aimed to learn about themselves and about the basic concepts of teamwork through Klondike Derby. Sands, the district risk management chairman, said he has participated in the event since 1977 in what is now known as the Blue Elk District.

Events like Klondike Derby allow Boy Scouts to take lessons they’ve learned at practice sessions or through textbooks and apply them in real-life situations, Sands said.

“Colder weather brings a little bit more of a challenge because of the conditions,” he said. “You have to prepare for it with the right kind of clothing and being able to meet the challenges of inclement weather. Each activity presents its own challenges and opportunities.”  

Modern technologies that have become a part of daily life, such as iPods, cell phones and video games, were discouraged from Saturday’s event. According to the members of Troop 738, only the adults and Eagle Scouts were allowed to have their cell phones to check the time.

“Just the fun-ness of outside,” Ealey explained.