Interpreting the Wonders of Glacier National Park

A conversation with longtime park ranger and Many Glacier interpreter Diane Sine

By Dillon Tabish
Diane Sine, Glacier National Park interpretive ranger at Many Glacier, pictured on April 25, 2017. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

Diane Sine discovered the wonder of Glacier National Park as a child in the 1970s on summer camping trips with her family. During college, she spent her summers working as a singing waitress and playing cello at the Many Glacier Hotel in the era when staff were hired based on music and drama background. She received an internship as a ranger naturalist the summer after graduating from college and returned to the park every summer during her career as a teacher. Now retired, Sine still finds herself in the wilds of Glacier Park as a longtime seasonal ranger.

She is the lead interpreter for the Many Glacier area, and her job is a combination of administrative and coaching duties along with the fun work of park interpretation, which includes visitor programs. The goal of park interpreters is to give visitors opportunities to make personal connections with the resources of Glacier. This includes offering ranger-led hikes to places such as Grinnell Glacier and Iceberg Lake, giving historic hotel tours, and providing evening campground talks and illustrated hotel programs.

In 2013, Sine received a “Super Supervisor Award” from the National Park Service for her outstanding leadership and mentoring abilities. Regular visitors to the Many Glacier area are fondly familiar with Sine and her passion and enthusiasm for Glacier’s ageless wonders.

Fun fact: Sine spent many years teaching at Elrod Elementary School in Kalispell. The school was named for Morton J. Elrod, who was the first ranger naturalist in the Many Glacier area, so Sine pretty much held the same position in Glacier that he held almost 100 years ago.

Glacier Journal: What was your first adventure in Glacier Park, either as a visitor or staff member, and what stood out to you?

Diane Sine: My family went on annual National Park camping trips throughout my youth, so my first Glacier Park adventure was as a child. We hiked the Highline Trail, spent the night at Granite Park Chalet, and then hiked over Swiftcurrent Pass to Many Glacier, so my first experience of what would become “my” Many Glacier valley was via trail. As we hiked along Red Rock Lake, we watched a helicopter chasing a grizzly bear on the opposite shore; I have a clear memory of the rotor wash ruffling the bear’s fur. Then the helicopter landed and rangers jumped out and tranquilized the bear. It was a rather exciting introduction to Many Glacier, and just for the record, that technique is no longer part of Glacier’s bear management.

GJ: If you had just one day in Glacier Park, what would you do, whether it’s sightseeing, hiking, riding the Red Buses or participating in a ranger-led program?

Sine: Everyone is different, so there really isn’t one universal experience everyone should have. Just turn off your cell phone — it won’t work most places in the park anyway— breathe deeply of the mountain air, and marvel at the majesty of this place and the fact that our government has valued its citizens enough to protect places like Glacier to be enjoyed by everyone. Of course, if you have a chance to participate in a ranger-led activity, we promise to add even more to your experience.

GJ: Glacier Park has many amazing qualities. What are a few of your favorites? Any that can go unheralded?

Sine: Alpenglow on the mountains in the early morning. Knowing that I’m sharing habitat with wildlife like grizzly bears, wolverines, and lynx even if I don’t see them. The opportunity to get away from roads and buildings and be refreshed by nature. This doesn’t require a long hike; it can be experienced in just a short walk. People know they’ll find natural beauty in Glacier, but a sometimes unheralded part of the park is the historic hotels. The NPS is charged with protecting these historic structures because they give us an opportunity to connect with early visitor experiences and traditions.

GJ: For families or other visitors who are visiting Glacier Park for the first time, what’s some advice you’d share with them?

Sine: My biggest piece of advice is to be flexible in your planning. Glacier has so much to offer, and some of the most memorable experiences are those you just stumble upon. Yes, visitors should learn as much as they can about the park ahead of time and the www.nps.gov/glac website is a great place to start. But once you get to the park, your visit will be influenced by weather, trail conditions, and visitor numbers, and if you end up needing to change your original plans you will still have an amazing time in an unparalleled setting.

GJ: What’s your favorite part of working in Glacier Park?

Sine: I’m still rather amazed that someone is willing to pay me to hike Glacier’s trails with fascinating people from all over the world while sharing my passion for this place. It doesn’t get any better.

This story originally appeared in the 2017 Glacier Journal. Pick up your free copy of the annual summer guidebook on newsstands across Northwest Montana.

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