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It's an unusual phenomenon in a campground where most people visit for a night or two before moving to some other part of the park.
"Initially, we came here on a kayaking day. Just a kayaking outing," said Ingrid Forsmark, a resident of Whitefish, Mont., and Tok, Alaska, who has been coming to Kintla for the past three years. "I met Lyle, and he was so interesting to talk with, I thought, ooh, I'm going back there."
Campers call to Ruterbories by name as he makes his rounds. Visitors who haven't been to Kintla in a decade greet him like a long-lost uncle.
Pretty much anything can launch Ruterbories into a story. He can shift easily between observations on a family of loons, the origins of the nickname "Gray Eagle" given him to by a Blackfeet Indian cleanup crew and recollections about the time he found a 30,000-year-old fossilized jaw of a two-toed horse in a nearby stream.
A simple hello at a campsite can turn into a 45-minute discussion of past bear encounters, near misses with wildfires or the historical Indian migration routes in the area.
National Park Service spokesman Jeff Olson confirmed Ruterbories is the oldest seasonal ranger the park service knows of. (The oldest full-time ranger is 92-year-old Betty Soskin, who works at Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, Calif.)
As Ruterbories has gotten older, park officials ask him to check in on the radio each evening. He doesn't go out on emergency calls anymore and a bad knee has kept him from wandering the backcountry.
He has designed special tools to help him get the jobs done around the campground, like the wheeled cart he uses to haul logs.
"He's pretty ingenious," Emmerich said. "As he ages, he has to get smarter. He thinks it through, and he's not going to hurt himself."
But the bum knee is threatening to bring an end to Ruterbories' ranger career. The cartilage was removed in 1969, and now the joint has worn through and is hitting a nerve. He walks with a pronounced limp.
An operation could fix it, but he's worried about recovering from surgery at his age. If he doesn't go through with it, retirement is likely.
"I'll tell you what's going to happen. Everybody's talking me into getting that knee fixed. If I get it fixed, I'll be back," Ruterbories said.
Emmerich said it will be up to Ruterbories on whether he returns in 2014.
"It's his choice. He always said, 'I'll retire when you retire,'" said Emmerich, 56.
By the time this week's U.S. government shutdown closed Glacier, Ruterbories had already left the park — perhaps for the year, perhaps for good. After the Labor Day weekend crowds departed, he went about his annual ritual of shutting down Kintla Lake.
He knew this time may be the last. But if he felt a pang of remorse at the prospect of leaving the paradise he and his wife made for themselves, he didn't show it. His main concern is taking extra care in cleaning the little red cabin in case a new ranger is there next summer.
"I don't like to leave a mess for anybody," he said.