Rafters enjoyed Yukon experience
by Stephanie Waddell
The Whitehorse Star, originally appeared August 25, 2000

The voices of Wandervogel sang out to the strumming of acoustic guitars in front of Whitehorse city hall one recent afternoon.

“There are strange things done in the midnight sun,” they sang with thick German accents, in honour of Robert Service, the poet who made the Yukon famous in his writings.

For four weeks during their stay in the Yukon, the group traveled from Minto to Whitehorse along the Yukon River on two rafts they built using 40 trees they were permitted to cut down in the area.

Wandervogel’s leader, Joerg Segffarth, described the group as something like Scouts with the exception that members can be part of it for life. It’s also part of a pacifist movement.

“The main purpose is to travel,” Segffarth explained in a July 31 interview.

It’s through traveling that people have the opportunity to understand other cultures. Their pattern is much like that of a crane – south to north, then north to south.

“Every summer, we plan a big trip,” Segffarth said, noting that throughout the year they often take hiking trips and participate in other events that enable them to meet other people and explore new places.

The idea to travel by raft through the Yukon River came about two years ago, when the group heard of a youth group that did the same thing. They planned the trip for two years and finally came to the Yukon this summer with 25 members between the ages of 12 and 61. Some of the older members even traveled to Alaska.

The city assisted Wandervogel in getting the necessary permission to cut the trees needed for the rafts.

After four weeks of traveling along the river and through some of the territory, Segffarth was mesmerized by the scenic environment. The group wrote a number of songs about their trip as well, which they sang out on the steps of city hall on July 31.

“It was overwhelming,” Segffarth said of their voyage.