Tour guide David Eglsaer loves the fact that his job lets him spend several months of the year among the stunning peaks of Montana’s Glacier national park
This is one of the greatest backyards ever created – and we get to spend a few months of every year in it. There are no towns inside the park, just five lodges and a few campgrounds. Most employees live in dormitory accommodation in the park: we’re here to help guests experience the park the way Mother Nature intended.
Glacier national park has 700 miles of hiking trails. It’s open all year round, but the bus tours only run between May and September, so many of us work here in summer and then go on to winter seasonal jobs at places like ski resorts.
I’ve had Al Gore, Laura Bush, Robin Williams and David Letterman on my red bus. Group tours last between three and eight hours, but visitors can also do private tours. One of my favourite stories involves Ronald Reagan, who was here to shoot his 1954 movie Cattle Queen of Montana. Reagan had the day off and wanted to go fishing but his guide Roscoe had to finish cleaning the hotel rooms before he could leave. Apparently, Reagan rolled up his sleeves and started making beds and cleaning bathrooms so he could spend more time fishing.
My very first week in the park, just after I’d arrived from Texas, I came across a bear. I froze and we just stared at each other. Remembering my orientation training, I looked down and slowly backed away. Luckily the bear didn’t follow, and as soon as I’d backed around a bend I took off at a sprint. The next two times I tried that trail, the same thing happened – I was turned around by a bear. By the fourth time, the bear and I had reached an understanding and I finally completed the trail.
My favourite type of guest is one from a big city who’s never seen snow-capped peaks. When they get on the bus, I see them checking their phone, frustrated if there isn’t much service. Then we start up Going-to-the-Sun Road and the phone is forgotten. The road is surrounded by spectacular peaks – the highest is Mount Cleveland, at 3,200 metres. Logan Pass sits on the Continental Divide, at 2,000 metres.
The roads can be scary for those with a fear of heights. There are places where you have a huge mountainside to the right and a 900-metre drop to the left. I had one passenger who was so afraid she sat right behind me for the entire trip, holding on to the back of my seat. But at the end I got a big hug of thanks for allowing her to see the park.
Some days you actually drive up through the clouds, to Logan Pass. From there you get to look down on the clouds with the peaks poking through. I tell my passengers that it’s like looking down from heaven.