BR teacher’s vacation spent working in Montana mountainside

When Meagan Rogers asks her students this fall what they did on their summer vacation, the Parkview Baptist teacher might have the best answer of all.

Since June 9, the 25-year-old world history teacher has been living and working in Montana’s Glacier National Park, home to dozens of glaciers, hundreds of lakes, glistening waterfalls and forested valleys, abundant with wildlife.

She has been working at the gift shop at the Many Glacier Hotel, a 216-room hotel built by the Great Northern Railway in 1915. Outside her front door are snow-capped glaciers, forests of spruce, fir and lodge pole pine and the crystal blue Lake Sherburne.

“This has been one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. You don’t think you’re at work,” says Rogers. “I just work in this beautiful place and make sure people feel welcome.”

The shop sells crafts, clothing and other souvenirs from the park, but for Rogers, the best part is getting to meet people from all over the world.

“I’ve met people from the Far East and the Middle East. I met someone from Russia the other day,” she says. “I met one family who is taking a year to travel across country with their children. They live in a travel trailer, and the kids are home- schooled. Isn’t that amazing?”

She’s met some real WWOOFERS, too. Those are people who participate in the World Wide Opportunity on Organic Farms program, which links volunteers with organic farms and growers. They spend a few hours doing chores on a farm in return for lodging and food and are able to explore at their leisure.

And, proving what a small world it is, Rogers says with a laugh that she’s also met someone from Baton Rouge who lives just three streets over from her in Broadmoor subdivision.

Rogers’ foray into the Glacier job began when she went on a road trip with her grandparents, Betty and Morris Rogers of Covington, last summer through Montana. They toured the national park, and as they drove on the “Going to the Sun Road” — a spectacular highway with lush landscape and waterfalls — she decided she wanted to live in Montana.

“I started thinking, I really want to be here more than a couple of days,” she says.

She lives in a dorm with a roommate from Washington State and has enjoyed hiking some of the 700 miles of trails and back-country campgrounds in the park.

“I’ve hiked 65 miles so far, and hope to make it to 200 miles before I leave,” she says.

On hikes, she always carries bear spray as the park has a healthy population of black and grizzly bears. Rogers says she has seen almost all the wildlife in the park, including foxes, bears, elk, bighorn sheep and mountain goats.

“Most people aren’t aware of this, but a moose can also be a very dangerous animal if you get between a mother and her calf,” she explains.

Not long after Rogers arrived on June 17, an off-season snowstorm left six feet of snow in the highest part of the park.

“We’ve had a lot of snow and rain this summer, and park workers had initially been worried that we may be stranded,” she says. Fortunately, the weather cleared and roads opened.

In addition to working in the shop, Rogers also volunteers with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks and helps facilitate interdenominational worship services for workers and visitors at the park on Sundays.

Living and working in a vast wilderness means little cell phone or internet service, so Rogers says she’s enjoyed getting letters from friends and family and one of her students.

“You become detached from it. When you have cell service, you think everything is important and you have to answer or respond all the time,” she says. “Here on Montana time, you answer when you get a chance. It’s not the end of the world if you have to wait to use that cell phone.”

Rogers plans to leave the park on Sept. 8 and return to her job teaching ninth graders, as she has done for the past three years. She hopes to repeat her summer experience next year.

“I’ve learned that I didn’t want to wake up when I was 80 years old and not have done this,” she says. “I’m so happy I can do this.”