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Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  2,309 ratings  ·  334 reviews
The real stories behind the scenery of America’s national parks

 For twelve years, Andrea Lankford lived in the biggest, most impressive national parks in the world, working a job she loved. She chaperoned baby sea turtles on their journey to sea. She pursued bad guys on her galloping patrol horse. She jumped into rescue helicopters bound for the heart of the Grand Canyon.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 2nd 2010 by FalconGuides (first published January 1st 2010)
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Showing 1-30
3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,309 ratings  ·  334 reviews

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Mar 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
First, I'm going to be a lot nicer to park rangers when I see them. Second, I am rethinking any ideas I had about encouraging my son to go to work for the National Park Service. These stories illustrate how hard, frustrating and dangerous it can be to work in national parks. The stories are fascinating, a mixture of the author's experiences and those of fellow rangers. One thing that could make this book much better would be photos and maps, particularly, Grand Canyon maps.

Some take-away points
Mar 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
About a year ago, I read Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon. Morbidly fascinating book, and this is, too. Because Lankford spent a fair chunk of her career as a ranger in Grand Canyon National Park, there's a fair bit of overlap. It can be a little strange to read some of these incidents again, with much more detail and insight into the mindset of the rangers on scene. I even remembered some of the names from Over the Edge. While every bit as interesting as the previous book, I'd say that this ...more
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2012
"In the United States, a park ranger is more likely to be assaulted in the line of duty than is any other federal office, including those who work for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Secret Service; and the Drug Enforcement Administration."

I loved this. As previously stated, the other books I've read on this subject have been more focused on tourists and visitors to parks, the dangerous (and frequently) stupid situations they put themselves in, etc. This was very much about
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Soooo, having been a seasonal National Park ranger in my idealistic youth long, long ago in galaxy far, far away..., I could appreciate and relate to many of the stories former NPS ranger Lankford penned in this excellent book, especially:

* nudists vs ranger square off on a (non-nudist) National seashore - check
* sub-standard park staff accomodations; complete with wildlife roommates (aka scorpions) - check
* fun with loggerhead sea turtle babies - check
* idiotic questions from park visitors - do
Tracy St Claire
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
I purchased and read this book after visiting a few national parks this summer. The tales are honest and draw the reader in, but the book does not have a beginning middle and an end. It is neither a memoir of the author herself nor a collection of park ranger adventures -- it is instead a hodge-podge of tales involving herself, her friends, and none-of-the-above, including both park ranger stories and random personal stories and love life stories of these.? This is all told in no apparent order, ...more
Jess Haberman
May 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: nature-lovers, national park visitors
Shelves: books-i-own
This is a very entertaining and totally honest portrayal of the National Park System from some brave and underpaid, nature-loving park rangers at Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Denali. Exciting and sometimes cringe-worthy, Andrea's accounts of her own and her coworkers' experiences in the national parks had me riveted. My favorite moments were those when Andy and Mary showed the male rangers just how much a female ranger could kick ass. I'd recommend this to anyone who loves the outdoors and especi ...more
Stewart Tame
Nov 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fascinating, fascinating book. As most of us probably do, I always took park rangers for granted. When I would visit a park, they were just kind of there. I had a vague notion that they took care of the park and helped people in trouble, but I never (fortunately) got into enough trouble to experience this firsthand. Of course there was the ranger from the Yogi Bear cartoons, and the chubby one from the Disney cartoons, but neither is a strictly accurate portrayal ...

It turns out that there's a
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
As a former NPS seasonal ranger I was interested in reading this book. What she illustrates is a true picture of working in our busy parks though by the end of the book I was tired of her whining. Yes, housing can be awful, yes, visitors can be rude and stupid and yes, by the end of the season you will probably be burned out and ready to leave. But, you don't work hard to get a job with the Park Service because you want to be rich, famous and sit at a desk all day. Overall, the book started with ...more
Ted Hunt
Feb 22, 2017 rated it liked it
My daughter gave this book to me because I have jokingly maintained that being a park ranger would be my second career one day. Well, reading this book has permanently dissuaded me from that (albeit farfetched) notion. The book is written by a long time National Park Service ranger, a woman who began at Cape Hatteras National Seashore and wound up out west in places like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. There are a few passages that met my expectation of conveying the sublime experiences of workin ...more
Jul 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
First thing, you have to realize that this is not written by someone who enjoys being a ranger. This is someone who used to enjoy being a ranger, but grew more and more traumatized and wearied by the job and has now left the park service. To be fair, it's an incredibly demanding and under-rewarded job, but this is important to know because in the end this is a really depressing book. She warns you at the beginning of the book that she isn't going to withhold any unpleasant details - believe it! ...more
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
It certainly is honest, I'll give you that. Might even want to put a warning on it about the very matter-of-fact details provided regarding some of the injuries and events. I thought my 13 year old daughter could read it, but I've reconsidered. There are some visual images described that I won't soon forget.

The most impressive thing to me was the writing. Unfairly I suppose I had low expectations of someone writing about their tales of being a ranger. But Ms. Lankford's language to describe both
Christina Melanson
Jul 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you have ever enjoyed the pleasures of exploring the National Parks, here is an enlightening,sometimes humorous, sometimes shocking behind-the-scenes account of a female USNP service employee. Recounting tales of rising through the ranks over her career, you quickly learn that a ranger is REALLY not "being paid our taxpayer's dollars to hike all day in the woods". Gruellingly long shifts, meager pay, sex-discrimination and numerous obstacles for promotion are described, but most memorably tol ...more
Chris Seals
Jan 02, 2012 rated it liked it
I liked this book, but some stories felt unfinished. I buy an adventure book every time I'm up at Grand Canyon, and have read many. They all make me realize that my safe, 800 hiking miles in GC, have come at a steep price for many. My goal is 1000 GC miles before I need to give up my hiking days. I'm almost there. These types of books show me what not to do, and give me great admiration for all the Park Rangers work risk their lives every day for park visitors.
Lana Hasper
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
OMG, even being a Nat'l Park Ranger is a crummy job.
Marykay Pogar
May 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
After reading about all the people who die or nearly die in the Grand Canyon, I can't wait to start our trek there in a couple weeks.
Trevor Lipply
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was outstanding. It was a series of real stories of a handful of park rangers around the country. The stories were incredibly well written, and many of them were very intense. It gives me a strange feeling, in some ways it makes me scared to become a park ranger, and in other it makes me want to become one even more. The tasks that these people are put up to is very under appreciated! The National Park Service is sadly under budget (and is threatened even more so today). Andrea Lankfor ...more
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is really an engaging and enjoyable book. It details the lives of Rangers in some of Americas most visited National Parks (mainly Yosemite and the Grand Canyon but a few smaller and less visited National Parks are also discussed). Apparently being a Park Rangers is not just telling people which trails to hike - at least for these Ranger positions it's a cross between police officer and EMT - all while being grossly underpaid and overworked.

This is a quick and enjoyable read. Definitely wort
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A true story account of a very difficult but important job. National Parks are beautiful, and deadly, so a ranger has to wear many hats (medic, search and rescue, educator, and animal advocate to name a few.) But sometimes, despite their efforts, people die. Usually, the story is funny, wry, or a little wistful. Sometimes, it is tragic. Overall, it's gripping and an intriguing behind the scenes look at a fascinating job.
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ever thought you knew what life as a Park Ranger was like? Well you may be surprised by what really happens. This book is an excellent document of what life as a Park Ranger is really like, filled with an interesting array of fully formed characters as we follow them all through a myriad of anecdotes of life. It’s not all fun and games, though there is some of that and a deep tragedy permeates through the last chapters. A fantastic exploration into the world of the NPS.
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
According to the ranger in my life—it gives a pretty accurate portrait of the emotional landscape experienced by NPS Rangers. Did not expect it to tug at my heartstrings in the way that it did.
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well this was eye-opening! I had no idea our Park Service employees were so poorly paid or that they had to work so hard. Or that rude people accuse them of being worthless and overpaid, and feel entitled to all the parks have to offer and then some. I'm sure there are many wonderful moments in that job, as well, or no one one would choose to go that route.
The stories are interesting, thought-provoking, sad, funny, unbelievable, and no doubt, true. I've never been to any of these wonderful plac
Michelle Welch
Jun 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I think if I weren't already familiar with the Grand Canyon, reading this book might make me not want to go. Either way, I now have a better understanding of what rangers in the big National Parks do, and I won't make the annoying mistake of saying to one, "What a great job - and you get paid in sunsets!"
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Fascinating book that certainly gets rid of an illusions that being a national park ranger was a glamorous life.
Anyone thinking of doing this for a career should read this book first.
May 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
I have wanted to read this book since a trip to the Grand Canyon three years ago. I just got my chance when we added it to a mixed order of summer reading gift books for our Adult Ed students. I put it on the request list because I thought it would appeal to some of the outdoor types. Yesterday I grabbed it and started reading, finishing the first ten chapters in a couple of sittings. I think I am already done.

The stories are interesting, but the Ranger who wrote it is extremely jaded. She has
Aug 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Lankford was a ranger for more than a decade. She loved the national parks and, at least at first, she loved the work. But this is not a love story, not really. Rather, it's a story of disillusionment.

Ranger Confidential is just about enough to make me add 'park ranger' to my list of Jobs I Never Knew I Didn't Want, but it's that disillusionment that gives me pause. So much of the book ends up being stories of people dying (often in horrible ways) and rangers handling their remains. It's hard to
Mar 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I'd say 3.5 stars because of the intense stories related in this compelling memoir. However, the organization of the accounts of what happened to different rangers and who those rangers are is a bit lacking at times. Upon occasion, after sharing information about different rangers and park workers, etc. the author, Andrea Lankford, inserts herself and her friends are calling her "Andy." A bit confusing. Would have been better with her narrating as herself throughout, I think. Also, she explains ...more
Jess Wilson
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: autobiography
My husband is planning on becoming a park ranger, so I decided to read this book with him to get some "insight" into the life of a park ranger. The author is totally honest, to the point of shocking at times, about her experiences as a ranger. Be warned, she doesn't sugar-coat anything, including the language used. I actually enjoyed the book because I felt it opened my eyes to some of the things my husband might experience. She did complain throughout the entire book about stupid tourists and l ...more
Jill Sorenson
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this as research for my park ranger heroine. Thanks to Ruthie Knox for the rec! It's a cracking good read, full of hair-raising rescues and heartbreaking disappointments. Lankford, the first female district ranger at Grand Canyon NP, shines a light on the darker side of a heroic job. She gives unflinching descriptions of everything from a BASE jump gone wrong to the casual misogyny of her male coworkers, who called female park rangers "split-tails." After reading about the long hours, har ...more
I worked as a seasonal clerical NPS employee in Yellowstone for 3 summers while I was in college in the late 60s and early 70s, one year at Park Headquarters and 2 years at the West District Office, which included the very-busy Old Faithful area. I wasn't privy to some of the politics, but I do have a wonderful stock of memories. Part of them are of the college-kid fun we summer staffers enjoyed, but others are of fielding those stupid tourist questions or of helping to deal with some very diffi ...more
Abby Barrows Meyer
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My husband bought this book in the gift shop at the Grand Canyon after we went on a bike bike ride tour. We ended up both reading it and loved it! This book made me laugh and cry while giving me such respect for the national park service! I had no idea how much they do on a regular basis, and for so little! Entertaining from cover to cover. Definitely worth the read.
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“Death is not a merciful conclusion but a border crossing into a new land that could be more beautiful and majestic than the tallest mansion. Faith, courage, and hope are the characteristics that create happiness. They will stand as remembered monuments for all those left around the bed, and they are the qualities I will strive to obtain. —From the journal of Cale Shaffer, dated September 7, 1992, written when he was eighteen years old” 0 likes
“In the United States, a park ranger is more likely to be assaulted in the line of duty than is any other federal officer, including those who work for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF); the Secret Service; and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). A park ranger is twelve times more likely to die on the job than is a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).” 0 likes
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