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The Alaska Highway turns 75: Behind the Book with Beyond Mile Zero

Posted: Monday, April 3, 2017 at 9:46am

The Alaska Highway was constructed in 1942 as part of the allied war effort against a threat from Japan. When the highway was opened to the public in 1948, tourist and traveller services popped up from Dawson Creek, BC, to Delta Junction, AK. In the early 1950s there was a lodge every twenty-five miles, but by the 2000s the community once described as the “Longest Main Street in North America” had all but disappeared. In 2014, writer Lily Gontard and photographer Mark Kelly set out to document the vanishing Alaska Highway lodge community. They travelled over 8,000 kilometres, interviewed over 40 people and took over 5,000 photographs. This spring, Lost Moose Books / Harbour Publishing is proud to publish Beyond Mile Zero: The Vanishing Alaska Highway Lodge Community.

We chatted with co-authors Lily Gontard and Mark Kelly, who hope that Beyond Mile Zero will help readers learn more about and appreciate the lasting contribution of the Alaska Highway, and encourage people to explore this part of the country. “I hope that it brings back memories for people who've driven the Alaska Highway, and makes people more curious about the highway and the community,” says Gontard, a writer and Parks Canada promotions officer from Whitehorse. She urges those who have the opportunity to travel the highway to slow down and learn as much as they can. “There are so many stories and places that people miss out on because they are in too much of a hurry.”

If you are inspired to make the trip, photographer Mark leaves you with this advice: “Bring a thermos, a rain coat and bug dope—you’ll likely need all 3 on the same day. Bring a healthy sense of adventure and really, really take as long as you can possibly afford. Oh, and a spare tire and a jerry can.”