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Stage 504 – Pickhandle Lake to Hard Luck Creek

Carrying on the tough work of the previous stage, 504’s a climber: in fact there’s precious little by way of respite anywhere on the stage after five miles and it assumes the profile of a lumpy slog. In terms of geography, it’s south east, kicking off next to Pickhandle Lake and making its way to a pass to the south west of Hard Luck Lake heading towards the Donjek River.

The rollout is flat/gently downhill for two miles as the Alaska Highway keeps Pickhandle Lake close by on its right hand side. At the end of the lake as the road negotiates its way past a large number of small lakes around the White River, the road climbs up and over a ridge before descending back down the other side to six miles. In terms of enjoyment, that’s it done.

Beyond the lakes, Route 1 just has the White river for company as it (the river) meanders its way wildly up the hillside. The road, meanwhile, takes an altogether straighter line up the mountainside, hugging the foot of the ridge and always clear of the water. The road eventually crosses the river at eight miles after passing by Lake Creek Territorial Park. The roles are then reversed and the road has the river on its left as both continue to climb.

At ten miles, the White River reaches what appears to be its source, but beyond it, snaking left and right as a small stream from small lake to small lake, the Koidern River takes over where the White River left off. Although small in stature, it remains with the road until thirteen miles where the river dives under the road to become a much wider version of itself heading south west and away from Route 1.

Undeterred by the loss of the Koidern River, the Alaska Highway gains two of its tributaries, one on each side of the road: on the northern side, Grafe Creek runs close by for a mile before heading left to its source further up the hill. On the southern flank, Lake Creek runs alongside the road until a large unnamed lake from which it flows at sixteen miles.

As the road continues to climb, mountains to the left and flood plains to the right, small lakes are commonplace and whilst streams do run between them, none are large enough to be named as proper rivers. The finish is at the highest elevation on the stage, which merely confirms the nature of a stage that started out at just over two thousand two hundred feet and finished it three hundred feet higher with precious little downhill to report.

Distance: 22 miles / 35 kilometres

Ascent: 594 feet / 181 metres

RGT Magic Road: QtLipxlCY8bd

Total distance: 21.43 mi
Max elevation: 2503 ft
Min elevation: 2247 ft
Total climbing: 594 ft
Total descent: -341 ft

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