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

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  3,634 ratings  ·  463 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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Average rating 3.97  · 
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 ·  3,634 ratings  ·  463 reviews

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Mar 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm going to be a lot nicer to park rangers when I see them. 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 better would be photos and maps, particularly, Grand Canyon maps.

Some take-away points I gleaned from this book:
1. Stay on the marked paths. Always.
2. Don't ask stupid questions because the rangers have alread
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
Stewart Tame
Nov 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fascinating, fascinating book. As most of us probably did, 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
Mar 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction
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
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
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
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
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
Karen Barnett
Feb 20, 2022 rated it really liked it
I listened to this book on audio while on a road trip, and it was intense! As a former seasonal park ranger (interpretation), I was a little stunned by some of the vitriol the author expressed in the book. But I realize my experience was short term and not in search and rescue. The stories contained in the book are eye opening and brutally honest. It’s a good read for anyone seriously considering a career in the park service, but maybe not for those who would rather maintain the fantasy of a dre ...more
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.
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
Rex Fuller
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you love the national parks as I happily admit to -- this year I'll get to the only two of the fifty-nine that I have yet to visit -- you have a certain fondness for the rangers. You sympathize with the one stuck in the kiosk collecting entrance fees all day. You try not to ask boring questions that they must have to answer so many times it hurts. And you really appreciate their helpfulness when you need it -- especially if it is answering one of those questions. After reading this, your fond ...more
Chris Seals
Jan 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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. ...more
Dec 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I had to dig in the book bag for another one. Still wasn't up to Patricia Cornwell (that book is at the top of the heap) and I dug around a bit and found this one. I have been to several National Parks and this book blew me away. For all the reading I do, fact is still more cruel, sorrowful, dangerous, crazier stories, and happier than fiction. The writing is not top notch but for the most part the feelings and stories divulged in this book are. A great change of pace read. ...more
Lana Hasper
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
OMG, even being a Nat'l Park Ranger is a crummy job. ...more
Rebecca Bohn
Oct 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Two things you should know before reading this book:
1. For a large portion of my life--like a lot of people, I'm sure--I've dreamed of becoming a Park Ranger for the NPS. After living vicariously through Lankford, I think I can put that dream to rest. This book will do that to most readers, I suspect, although there are those who will take these tales as a challenge.
2. I thought--and oh, how wrong I was--that this book would be sort of like Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods," but from a Ranger's P
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
Audrey H.
This should really be called "How the National Park System gave me PTSD". Lankford is a previous NPS ranger that spent most of her tenure at Yosemite and Grand Canyon, two very popular and beautiful parks. I was expecting a memoir-like collection of stories and reflections on her time, as the title would suggest. Noooooopppeee. I was really let down by the execution.

Firstly, this isn't a memoir. It's a collection of stories from four different NPS rangers (one being the author), the other three
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
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
May 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK! the stories are fantastic and Lankford does a tremendous job putting them all together. If you are going to a state park, read this book and don't be another ignorant tourist in a ranger's story. 😊😊😊 ...more
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. ...more
Jan 23, 2022 rated it really liked it
I preface my review with my background. I graduated with a MS degree from Colorado State University in outdoor recreation with an emphasis in environmental interpretation. I worked for about five years as a permanent full time park ranger during the 1980s for the US Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service. I worked in Washington, D.C., Arkansas, and Colorado. I find my work to be much more typical than that of Lankford.

Lankford describes herself as angry, irritable, frustrated, unh
Gloria Piper
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing

Lankford tells of her life as a national park ranger during the 1990s decade. She tells also of the adventures of her colleagues, men and women of outstanding dedication. Most of the action takes place in Grand Canyon National Park. The rangers serve with a passion and skill that overrides their low pay, long hours, and primitive living conditions. They act as medics, cops, teachers, and athletes as they move from mind-numbing monotony to defying death while rescuing hikers, pursuing criminals,
Feb 23, 2022 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
So you think you want to be a national park ranger? Then you need to read this book, which chronicles many years at some of America's biggest, busiest, and most dangerous parks, such as Yosemite and Grand Canyon. Reader beware, though: one thing that the book blurb did not mention is that many of these stories revolve around SAR (search and rescue) missions, some of which do not end with the victims being saved, and most of which are quite gory and tense regardless. The stories are very vivid an ...more
Laura Borger
Jun 10, 2022 is currently reading it
Super enjoyable to read AFTER visiting the parks - particularly, after hiking down into and back up out of the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Favorite Quotes:
“I had felt like a young ranger with too much responsibility, prematurely kicked out of the nest by a harried supervisor. Ten years later I was the distracted district ranger at the Grand Canyon” (Lankford 4).

“The scorpion – a primitive invertebrate with a microscopic excuse for a brain – has the good sense to stay out of the sun on hot days
Mike Courson
Aug 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Book 48 of 2021
I love this book. I visited Yellowstone some 18 hours away in Sept. 2019 and revisited the park again in just 10 months. The first time around I must have seen this book and purchased it between visits. I recently picked it up again as I really enjoyed it and remembered it as a quick read...perfect for work breaks.

Ms. Lankford combines a lot of facts with a lot of humor. Until the final 20 pages then it is quite poignant. Lots of behind-the-scenes stories of what it is like to wor
Apr 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. It was fast paced, emotional, awe inspiring and sometimes humorous. The author was a national parks ranger in the 1990s and recounts events both experienced and relayed to her on the trails. She does well to convey the gravity of the experiences without going into too many gory details. She interjects enough humorous events to balance the the more difficult ones so you never feel overwhelmed. It’s one of those books that I was truly sad to finish and can’t stop thinki ...more
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