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Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks [Kindle Edition]

Andrea Lankford
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (190 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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. She won arguments with bears. She slept with a few too many rattlesnakes.


Hell yeah, it was the best job in the world! Fortunately, Andrea survived it.


In this graphic and yet surprisingly funny account of her and others’ extraordinary careers, Lankford unveils a world in which park rangers struggle to maintain their idealism in the face of death, disillusionment, and the loss of a comrade killed while holding that thin green line between protecting the park from the people, the people from the park, and the people from each other. Ranger Confidential is the story behind the scenery of the nation’s crown jewels—Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Great Smokies, Denali. In these iconic landscapes, where nature and humanity constantly collide, scenery can be as cruel as it is redemptive.

Editorial Reviews


"You'll love this book." Ron Waters, National Outdoor Book Awards

"A behind-the-scenes peak of our national parks that you won't see in any Ken Burns documentary." Fresno Bee

"Andrea tells the real story about what she calls the best job in the world, carefully picking away at the mainstream postcard- perfect image of the park ranger." Wend Magazine

A National Geographic "Top Ten Book About U.S. Parks"..."Ranger Confidential dispenses with the wilderness romance and cuts straight to the heart of how difficult it can be to manage America's National Parks....the book delves into the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of today's park rangers."

"Part Sand County Almanac, part Backpacker Magazine, Lankford's stories will have you laughing raucously one minute and planning your vactaion the next." Sacramento Book Review

About the Author

Andrea Lankford is a former national park ranger and the author of three books, including Haunted Hikes: Spine-Tingling Tales and Trails from North America’s National Parks, which was featured in USA Today, chosen by People as a 2006 Travel Pick, and described by Newsday as “spell-binding.” Her articles have appeared in USA Today, Arizona Highways, and Backpacker.

Product Details

  • File Size: 485 KB
  • Print Length: 259 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0762752637
  • Publisher: Globe Pequot; First Edition edition (April 2, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003M69WB2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #154,406 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written; Gripping; Emotionally engaging April 29, 2010

I finished this 241 page book in 2 days. I could probably count on one hand the number of books that gripped me this much.

This book offers an open, honest, gritty look at the lives of rangers. The joys of saving lives, sadness at lives not saved, dangerous Search And Rescue, frustrations of "politics" within the NPS, personality issues, idealism,'s all here. Lankford is an excellent story teller. This book involves the reader emotionally. While reading the book I laughed, cried, anxiously held my breath and felt my heart pounding; feeling as if I were right there, a part of the experience.

The majority of this book deals with 2 National Parks, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. I found an especially close emotional attachment to these accounts, having helped author hiking DVDs on each of these parks (Yosemite National Park (Jon's Hiking Guides); Jon's DVD Hiking Guides - Grand Canyon National Park) . I could really put myself there because I've been in all the places mentioned in Yosemite, and most of the ones in the Grand Canyon.

When I was a kid I wanted to be a NPS Ranger. While others talked about becoming astronauts or Firemen, I dreamed of wearing a "Smokey Bear". That didn't happen, and after reading this book, I know that I wouldn't have been cut out for it anyway. Many people today get labeled "hero" without real reason. I now know that many NPS Rangers have earned that title.

Two thumbs up!!!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Is Clearly "From the Heart" October 1, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
While talking about career aspirations with a fellow Army CID Special Agent who just transferred to our office, she mentioned her desire to one day become a Park Ranger. When "Ranger Confidential" popped up in my Amazon "Recommended For You" list the next day, I passed along the info to my colleague. A couple of days later I decided to buy this book myself, and I'm very glad that I did.

Former National Park Service Ranger Andrea Lankford wrote a very powerful, affecting account of her experiences, co-workers, family and friends during a decade and a half spent serving in our National Parks. She could have told her story in a very superficial, macho, "There I was" fashion, and the anecdotes would have been entertaining, but still nothing special. Instead, Ms. Lankford took the more courageous path, sharing not only what she and her fellow Rangers did, but how they were affected physically and emotionally. Even though I am aware first-hand of the toll being a first responder exacts on our minds and bodies, reading "Ranger Confidential" still hit me like a punch to the gut. My palms sweated while Ms. Lankford recounted rescues and recoveries in the Grand Canyon and Yosemite; one incident she described occurred at the same time my wife and I were riding mules down to Phantom Ranch. I remember thinking at the time, "I sure wouldn't want to be the one having to rappel down those sheer cliffs!" That time-honored definition of courage: "Being scared to death but doing the task anyway" was never more apt when describing what Park Rangers volunteer to do with terrible frequency.

Some Amazon reviewers have negatively commented about Ms. Lankford's frank commentary on "Ranger Burnout" and Critical Incident Stress among law enforcement Park Rangers.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ! March 20, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I definitely am not a book critic, but as a person who has a personal relationship with one of the individuals whose life with the Park Service is described by Lankford, I have to say that I believe she has written an outstanding book that combines the experiences of rangers with "hard" data and her personal views. The compassion, commitment and community of the ranger community is evident throughout the entire book. It is, indeed, unfortunate that those as talented as Lankford suffer from burn out, but I hope she knows that she has given much to so many....and that, as my son tells me, you can't fix everything.

This is a must read for anyone who at times may not appreciate that every day is a gift and that the young can and do touch the lives of many.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ranger Confidential April 7, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Living and working in a National Park can be a bipolar experience. There are the highs of natural beauty and...well, natural beauty is a big one. There are the lows of isolation and low pay and "rustic" living conditions and...well, we will stop there. Andrea understands this bipolarity as well as anyone who's ever ...donned a NPS uniform, and she tells her story in a vividly personal and straightforward way. Great read!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars enlightening tribute to Rangers, but with some flaws April 18, 2014
By stz
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There were a lot of things I learned from this book. It certainly gave me insight into the challenges facing Rangers in their work and into the beauty and dangers of some of the great national parks (Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Danali). I am happy I read it because I feel that reading it is a sort of a tribute to the Rangers who risk their lives to help others, and work under difficult conditions, many without even the benefit of a decent salary. The public not only doesn't appreciate their work but often is at loggerheads with them.

However, the book had a few major flaws. First, it lacked any sort of organizational structure. It could have been organized by park, or by person(the book follows the lives of a handful of rangers, including the narrator) - but instead it kind of just jumps around from one figure to another, and one venue to another. It's hard to remember who is whom, or to know which person to pay attention to (because he/she will turn up again later in the book) The jump from chapter to chapter seems to be more a kind of stream of consciousness of the writer than anything else.

Much of the description of events also could use more tension. One or two events are written in a way which builds tension, but many events are described briefly and without much tension. All this lead to making the book rather easy to put down.

A bigger flaw for me is that the book could be called a kind of personal memoir if it weren't for the fact that it remains very impersonal. The narrator doesn't even have a name. (turns out it is Andrea...I should have paid more attention to the title page - I didn't even realize she was a woman for about the first 20 pages - the name Andrea doesn't appear in the book).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars pretty good book - other than the author being too ...
pretty good book - other than the author being too full of herself and she clearly exaggerates quite a bit (poetic license).
Published 25 days ago by LionsForce
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good, great gift
I got this as a gift for my mom and she couldn't put it down! Lots of down-to-earth tales of the rangers of our national parks, and the tough stuff they have to deal with. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Wolfwind
5.0 out of 5 stars realistic Read
I have spent a lot of time in both Yosemite and Grand Canyon parks. I sure have a lot more respect for those who work there. Good read .
Published 1 month ago by PJ
5.0 out of 5 stars I found this book both extremely interesting and hilarious. ...
I found this book both extremely interesting and hilarious. Does she have a sharp, critical sense of humor? Sure. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Rebecca Ballard
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by John H. hopper
2.0 out of 5 stars While the author may have some good tales go tell
While the author may have some good tales go tell, I stopped by page 15. I find the use of vulgar and crude language to be unnecessary - even more so coming from a female. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Montana
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't like her writing style
On the plus side...Interesting stories. Gives an insider's look at a job that most know very little about. Read more
Published 3 months ago by jeff
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book and didn't want it to end
I loved this book and didn't want it to end. I especially like the balance of the genders in the field and appreciated how honestly the struggles of the female rangers were... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Dolores Allen
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end.
Imagine being able to spend evenings around a campfire listening to real stories told by a National Park ranger. That is what it is like reading Ms. Langford's book. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Max Lent
4.0 out of 5 stars good book but not what I was expecting
I enjoyed this book very much. I was expecting something more along the line of wacky stories about drunk frat boys but this is actually a pretty serious book that covers some... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Paul
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More About the Author

Andrea Lankford, a former National Park Ranger, has performed firefighting, law enforcement, and life-saving wilderness medicine in Cape Hatteras, Zion, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon. Her masochistic adevntures include thru-hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, kayaking from Miami to Key West, cycling from Fairbanks to the Artic Ocean, and being the first to mountain bike the 800-mile Arizon Trail.

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