With photographs by Mark Kelly, Yukon-based Lily Gontard wrote Beyond Mile Zero (Harbour 2017), which explores the evolution of Alaska Highway culture. Opened to the public in 1948, at the beginning of the golden age of the automobile, quaint and quirky establishments sprang up to serve the travelling public. Now, aside from truckers, most people travel the Alaska highway in fuel-efficient cars and sulf-sufficient RV's, which means the demand for lodge services has diminished and the businesses are struggling to survive. This book received the Innovation, Education, and Community Engagement Award at the 34th annual Yukon Heritage Awards held at the Yukon Archives on February 19, 2018.

The book also features archival photos.

REVIEW (2017) by Heather Longworth Sjoblom:
Beyond Mile Zero: The Vanishing Alaska Highway Lodge Community by Lily Gontard and Mark Kelly (Harbour Publishing $24.95)

To mark the 75th anniversary of the construction of the Alaska Highway through B.C., the Yukon, and Alaska, Lily Gontard teamed up with photographer Mark Kelly to document over seventy lodges, past and present, along the highway north of Dawson Creek in Beyond Mile Zero: The Vanishing Alaska Highway Lodge Community.

They drove 8,113 kilometres over six years to research these motor inns-no easy task on a 1,422-mile (2,288 km) long highway where Mother Nature has reclaimed several abandoned lodges.

Kelly took over 5,000 photographs and they interviewed over forty lodge owners, or descendants of owners.

Having filled its wartime military supply purpose, the Alaska Highway was opened to tourists in 1948.

Soon lodges sprang up along the route, often with gas stations and mechanics on hand to repair vehicles rattled and shaken on the rough and unpaved road.

After introducing the highway's construction and the history of Alaska Highway lodges, Gontard and Kelly present individual lodges in geographical order as they follow the highway north from Mile Zero at Dawson Creek to Delta Junction, Alaska.

Among the humorous stories and characters are Trapper Ray who operated the Liard Hotsprings Lodge near Mile 496.

Also known as Ray Puttonen, he habitually told his visitors about the fur spider, a cross between an insect and a rodent. He convinced so many visitors of the existence of this mythical creature that exasperated park rangers at Liard Hotsprings constantly had to deny its existence.


Over sixty years, the demand for roadside accommodation gradually shrank.
As road conditions and capabilities of vehicles increased, lodges were no longer needed every twenty-five miles. Gradually they closed due to the need for costly maintenance, the lack of people willing to take over, and the rerouting and upgrading of the highway.

For every operating lodge, today's traveller sees at least two that are abandoned or for sale.

Many of the interviewees expressed nostalgia for the lodging community that will never again witness its mid-twentieth century heyday.

Some lodges, with people, resources, and customers in place, are in prime locations to continue for years to come. Others will close within the next decade with no one to take over or carry out repairs.

As a Yukon resident Gontard is most familiar with lodge history in that territory; now more work remains to be done to document this part of B.C. history.

The smaller archives along the Alaska Highway could be combed for more information and back issues of The Milepost and other travel magazines could be scoured to compile a conclusive historical list of highway lodges.
Gontard and Kelly are aware that their work is not yet over. Anyone with stories to contribute, especially about roadside establishments that aren't included in the book, are invited to contact the authors.

Meanwhile, the 325,000-plus tourists who drive the Alaska Highway each year would do well to pick up a copy of this book. 978-1-55017-797-8

Heather Longworth Sjoblom is the manager and curator of the Fort St. John North Peace Museum. She has an MA in history from the University of Victoria, and a post-graduate certificate in museum management and curatorship from Fleming College.


Beyond Mile Zero (Harbour 2017) $24.95 978-1-55017-797-8 Photos by Mark Kelly.

[BCBW 2017]


Beyond Mile Zero authors Lily Gontard and Mark Kelly to receive award
at 34th Annual Yukon Heritage Awards

Harbour Publishing is pleased to announce that Lily Gontard and Mark Kelly, the author and photographer of Beyond Mile Zero: The Vhe Vanishing Alaska Highway Lodge Community (Harbour Publishing, 2017) will be receiving the Innovation, Education, and Community Engagement Award at the 34th annual Yukon Heritage Awards which will be held at the Yukon Archives (400 College Drive, Whitehorse) on Monday, February 19, 2018. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the event will commence at 7:00 p.m.

"These annual awards honour those who have made exceptional contributions to the conservation and celebration of Yukon's heritage, enriching our community through preservation, interpretation, and volunteerism,"; says Yukon Historical + Museums Association (YHMA) Executive Director Lianne Maitland in the association's official press release.

Based on countless hours of interviews and travels along the Alaska highway, Beyond Mile Zero deftly combines personal stories from current and former lodge owners and their families with stunning archival and contemporary photographs and visuals. This is the story of the Alaska Highway lodges and lodge communities, capturing the spirit of those who live and have lived at the lodges, and documents both the tangible and intangible elements of a disappearing highway lifestyle. The award acknowledges an outstanding or innovative initiative, exhibit, event or project that engages or inspires existing or new audiences with Yukon heritage.

The Awards ceremony will coincide with the start of Heritage Week, which runs from February 19-25. In connection with this year's theme, "Heritage Stands the Test of Time,"; Dr. Brent Slobodin Yukon's newly appointed representative on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, will give a keynote presentation on the role, composition, and history of the Board. The talk will also discuss key changes occurring under the administrative direction of Minister for the Environment Catherine McKenna, current issues before the Board, and Dr. Slobodin's role as Yukon's representative. Other winners included Kaska Elder Leda Jules, Peggy D'Orsay, Alice Cyr, Teslin Tlingit Council.

YHMA is a territorially-incorporated Society and registered charitable organization that works to inspire and share a passion for Yukon heritage by providing opportunities and support for education, networking, advocacy, partnerships, and awareness. (heritageyukon.ca)