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Readers’ Choice 2012: Reader Leader: Glacier Magic

More than 150 of you entered our contest to become a BACKPACKER field scout. Meet the winners here, starting with Colleen Contrisciane-Lewis, of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. She earned the all-expenses-paid grand prize: an assignment to hike—and report on—her dream trip. Read about her 85-mile, weeklong transect of Glacier National Park on the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail.

Day 5
This morning, we take it slow purposefully. It’s our honeymoon, and the seven-mile stretch of trail along Bowman Lake is flat, fast, and breathtaking. The park’s topography changes quite a bit on the west side of the Continental Divide, and when we leave the Pacific Northwest Trail and turn down Lower Quartz Trail at mile 51 we begin to notice the differences. The trees grow thicker and taller, and the mountains are rounder and gentler than the sharp peaks east of the divide. Another difference: We don’t see a soul, and our campsite at calm and piney Lower Quartz Lake is deserted. 
   
We arrive at camp early, and talk about packing fishing rods the next time, so we can cook a trout dinner. Or maybe even horsepacking one day. Less than an hour later, a couple on horses appears. The husband jumps off his horse and says, “Do you like fish? I’ve heard this lake is full of cutthroats.” After dropping a heap of fish at our feet, the couple rides away to leave us to a private feast. Does the trail magic ever stop?

Day 6   
As we hike from Lower Quartz Lake to the Inside North Fork
Road crossing at mile 60.7, the sense of being utterly alone becomes palpable. We never see so much as a fresh footprint. We linger by crystal-clear Lower Quartz Creek and have a languid swim in its shallow (and warm) waters.
   
After crossing the road, we continue south to Logging Lake Trail. “Would you mind silencing your bear bell?” Rowan asks. “The incessant jingle is grating. And I’d love to see a bear.”
   
Who am I to argue with a man who’s lived with lions? So, against my better judgment, I silence my bell, and zip my lips. We hike 30 minutes before seeing a grizzly 20 yards off the trail. It behaves like every other bear I’ve ever encountered and takes off. My reaction? Mark a waypoint! After all, I’ve become a trail reporter and think the editors of Backpacker would like their readers to have such a juicy detail.

But the bear only runs a short distance before stopping to stand on its hind legs and get a better view of Rowan. I make some noise, and the bear takes off again. Rowan naturally complains that I cut his first bear encounter short. I roll my eyes and un-silence my bell for the remaining 4.5 miles to our camp at Logging Lake.

Day 7
Logging Lake is a skinny, seven-mile-long pool tucked into a tight valley that hardly anybody goes to. The reason? The trail along its banks dead-ends, so it’s not useful for big circuits. We’d planned on camping at trail’s end, just 4.5 miles away, for our final night. But when we awake the next morning, we want to be still—we put in more than 70 miles, are sore, and already have a prime campsite on the beach of this inviting lake. Nothing sounds better than spending a day lounging by the water—enjoying this remote and sublime landscape to the fullest—before hiking back out to the road. It is our honeymoon, after all.

Do it
Get there From Browning, take Duck Lake Rd. 33.2 miles to US 89. Turn right and head 5.6 miles to a left on MT 17. Go 14 miles to the trailhead.
Shuttle Glacier Transportation, (406) 892-3390; glaciertransportation.com
Contact (406) 888-7800; nps.gov/glac
GPS data Download tracks and waypoints, view more photos, and print a custom map of this route at backpacker.com/winner

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