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Stage 492 – Joint Base Elmerndorf-Richardson to Chistochina

There’s a bit of a high tech military feel to the start of stage 492. Starting high up on the hill overlooking the Copper River, Route 1 heads north east on a lumpy four mile run to The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Facility, which is worth a few words in its own right:

The High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program, or HAARP, is a scientific endeavor aimed at studying the properties and behavior of the ionosphere. “The ionosphere stretches roughly 50 to 400 miles above Earth’s surface, right at the edge of space. Along with the neutral upper atmosphere, the ionosphere forms the boundary between Earth’s lower atmosphere – where we live and breathe – and the vacuum of space.” HAARP is the world’s most capable high-power, high-frequency transmitter for study of the ionosphere.

After passing the base, the road meanders north east, descending down to, but not actually crossing Tulsona Creek. It’s a descent of around two hundred feet in a couple of miles but the bad news is that no sooner have you got to the bottom than you have to climb all the way back up again, and more: by the time the Tok Cutoff Road reaches ten miles, looking down over a steep ridge to a series of long thin islands in the Copper River below, it’s ascended to nineteen hundred feet, easily the highest elevation on the stage.

The summit is lumpy for a couple of miles as the highway goes over the top of the headland, but down the other side there’s a steep descent back down to the river at twelve miles. From being almost two miles away from the river at the summit, the road is now running right alongside it as both head north and east, uphill, over the remaining nine miles of the stage.

The climb is a slog. It’s never steep, but it’s unrelenting: and the fact that the river is never more than a few metres away from the road (on the right hand side of the road as you head north) suggests just how fast the river is flowing at that point. The road gains around a hundred feet of elevation between miles twelve and twenty one.

The finish is on the approach to Chistochina at the end of a long right hand bend that snakes left/right immediately before the line. Save some energy for the run-in: it’s uphill all the way.

Distance: 22 miles / 35 kilometres

Ascent: 489 feet / 149 metres

RGT Magic Road: wSuDaHyfflUL

Total distance: 20.98 mi
Max elevation: 1893 ft
Min elevation: 1653 ft
Total climbing: 488 ft
Total descent: -513 ft

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