A piece of Yukon history has been reborn, thanks to Sandy and Frank Ruether.
That was a big part of why the couple bought the Johnson’s Crossing Lodge, said Sandy.
They re-opened the highway stop last spring.
“It was closed for a couple years, and it was sort of sad,” said Sandy. “Highway lodges are kind of passe. Just drive up and down the highway and they’re all closed, right? We wanted to kind of bring back that nostalgia.”
The Ruethers were previously based in Faro, and Frank was a truck driver.
“Faro’s pretty quiet. We kind of wanted to get a little closer to Whitehorse, and I wanted to get off the highway,” he said.
Sandy used to run a restaurant stop between Whitehorse and Dawson, so she knew they could get the lodge back in business.
It’s familiar territory for Frank, too.
“I’ve been around highway lodges and up and down the highway most of my working life, so there’s no real surprises,” he said.
Robert Porsild built the lodge in the 1940s and raised his family there.
His daughter Ellen Davignon took over the property and later wrote about her experiences growing up on the highway in her book, The Cinnamon Mine.
The lodge stayed in the family until the 1990s, and Davignon, now 77, still visits.
“I just love Ellen,” said Sandy. “Ellen is one of my favourite, favourite people. She’s a beautiful woman. She worked damn hard in her day. I think it’s amazing that since 1992 or whenever they left, her legacy is still here is a lot of ways.”
The Cinnamon Mine is a big seller at the lodge’s gift shop, said Sandy.
Running the shop is one of Sandy’s favourite parts of the business, because it gives her a chance to promote local artists and authors, she said.
“I am very proud to be from the Yukon and I think it’s a really nice way to display what we have to offer here, by having locally made products, whether it’s slippers or candles or earrings.”
The first summer season after the re-opening went really well, said Sandy. What they had planned as a small restaurant turned into a full-service RV park and motel.
“We really had no idea that it would be as busy as it was, because it had been closed for a couple of years.
“We initially came here just hoping to sell a little bit of soup and sandwiches, type of thing. We had no idea that people would come in here even if it wasn’t open.”
Lots of tourists have been coming up every summer for 30 years, she said, and they have stories about the lodge in the old days.
Some of the old pictures are framed on the walls.
A lot end up staying longer than expected, said Sandy.
“We have people that stay two days at the RV park, because it’s all treed and it’s really relaxing. We have laundry, we have showers, you can walk down to the river and go fishing.”
Yukoners like to come and visit the old lodge, too.
“Many people in the Yukon grew up with Johnson’s Crossing,” said Sandy.
“It’s close enough from Whitehorse that you can go for a day drive – people in the Yukon love doing that.”
They’re really aiming to offer something for everyone, said Sandy.
“I’m trying to have a really good selection of quality food, quality gifts, quality nostalgia and classiness.”
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