We exited the park at its northern entrance, ran through the small town of Sunrise and returned on gravel and paved roads.
The first 10 miles were some of the most difficult I have ever run. For the first 5 miles, we "scatter stepped" through ski tracks, snow shoe tracks, boot tracks, deer tracks, turkey tracks, coyote tracks and some unidentifiable tracks. Lots of tracks. Whoever would come after us would have to add trail running shoe tracks to their list of tracks.
For the next 5 miles, we encountered no tracks but our own (if you look backward). However, this made things worse. Each step consisted of: an initial crusty, seemingly stable surface plant; the foot punching through the aforementioned; the foot traveling through soft under-snow as if it were powdered sugar; the foot coming back up through the powdered sugar; and the foot trying to ascend through more crusty surface-snow along the toe area.
By the time we reached pavement, my legs were like ground beef.
Between miles 10.7 and 13, we tried to stride out on a road that, while plowed, was most likely plowed by a zamboni. [word has it that Martin Zellar is performing at LumberJack Days this year] The gravel road from Sunrise, MN back to the south entrance of Wild River is incredible: rolling hills, lined by pine trees, farms, and several large lots for sale.
We finish the run with a protein infested meal at a little cafe in Taylor's Falls.