Where I stay is called Many Glacier, and it's the area where I spent most of my summers. There's a little town called Babb, Montana, and it's about 13 miles from Many Glacier.* Half of that is outside the park, on the Blackfeet Reservation; the other part of it is inside the park. If I come back from Babb in the evening, I'll see cars driving slowly back and forth on that road looking for bears. In fact, I don't deal with this too much, but there are people who come on a regular basis and are sometimes getting too close to bears.
Lam: What can you do about that? Can you talk to them?
Schuster: Yes. We have other rangers that are called patrol rangers. They are law-enforcement rangers and they're the ones who would normally deal with that, and we actually have in our park a couple of rangers that are called bear-management rangers. They do other things, but their first priority is with the bears. At times, we close trails if there are too many bears or bears getting close to people.
You've got some visitors here, who if there's a bear on the trail, they're going to go up there. Other people are here, who if there's a bear on the trail, they're going nowhere near there.
Lam: I just can't understand why anyone would want to be close to a bear.
Schuster: Well, I have been myself. Overall, bears are pretty tolerant of people. I sometimes use this comparison, but the bison in Yellowstone—I hear so many stories and I'm not really familiar with their behavior—but it sounds like they just charge people. Bears do, but it's mostly when they're surprised. They're pretty tolerant of people, overall, I'd say, but they're certainly dangerous. We have signs and programs. I do a program once a week on bears one evening in the summer about the things we advise people about bears. For hikers, we say be alert, stay on the trail, don't go off the trail, don't hike alone, don't go out too early in the morning or late in the evening, make noise. It's all based on avoiding surprising a bear.
Lam: Are there any funny or memorable visitors who have stayed with you?
Schuster: My best memories are those of sharing Glacier with the visitors: Their first sighting of a grizzly bear in the wild, their first view of a glacier, their joy at seeing a mountain meadow filled with Glacier’s wildflowers, their amazement while enjoying the breathtaking view from a mountain pass.
My personal memories would include the opportunity to go with a research team under the Grinnell glacier and see the fascinating underside of the glacier. The fresh burst of flavor, as you taste the first ripe huckleberries of summer. Guiding a short flower walk and spotting four moose in Fishercap Lake and two more near Wilbur Falls. Pausing with a group in the Iceberg Cirque, and hearing what sounded like rifle shots as a series of small avalanches raced down the slopes of the Pinnacle Wall. Traversing Swiftcurrent glacier and spending my 40th birthday on Grinnell Mountain with friends and fellow rangers. Sitting on top of Mount Wilbur, astonished by the panorama of glacier-carved peaks on my 55th birthday with my sons and another ranger who was also experiencing his 55th year. Many nights of sitting on the balcony of the Many Glacier Hotel drinking in the view of the spectacular crimson sunset over the Pinnacle Wall and watching visitors find the cluster of sun rays that poke through the famous Hole in the Wall.
* This article originally misstated Many Glacier as Mini Glacier. We regret the error.
This interview is a part of a series about the lives and experiences of members of the American workforce, which includes conversations with a cartographer, a postmaster, and a logger.