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Ranger Confidential Book Review

In Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks**, former national park ranger, Andrea Lankford, shares some of her experiences from working in the National Park System (NPS). As she points out, it’s rare for rangers to share what really goes on in the NPS, so it’s a treat to have the opportunity to glean an insider’s view at life in the parks. Among the experiences shared are death defying rescues and tender moments of reflection.

Ranger Confidential introduces us to many NPS employees, as well as some of those who were rescued (or died) at several of our national parks, including the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Denali, in Alaska.

There are several things I liked about this book. First is the conversational tone and writing style. This is a very easy and inviting read. I felt like Andrea Lankford is a good friend sharing her experiences with me over a cup of coffee.

Second, of course, are the stories of NPS experiences. She recounts dramatic rescues on the sheer cliffs of El Capitan and hovering on a rope attached to a helicopter in a slot canyon at the Grand Canyon. Along the way, we meet a small sampling of the rangers that worked with Lankford. And, we get a sense of how the NPS system works—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Lankford writes: “…age wreaked havoc on our idealism, a little courage bled from each tragic experience, and hope seemed elusive when so many lives were lost.” And, yet, so many continue to be called to service in our national park system. All the better for us who love to visit and hike our parks.

I do wish Lankford had written more about an average day of a park ranger. Most of the stories in Ranger Confidential are extreme, high tension and drama moments. Those were interesting, of course, but I think comparing those intense days with a more normal day would show the range of experiences the rangers have.

If you’ve ever dreamed of being a park ranger, or if you’re a visitor of our national parks, I highly recommend you read this book. This collection of experiences are heartwarming and death defying. They made me want to become a park ranger and made me glad that I’m not one. And, beyond everything else, I now have a much greater respect for the rangers who protect and defend our parks.

Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks
File Size: 485 KB
Print Length: 259 pages
ISBN: 0762752637
Publisher: Globe Pequot; First edition (April 2, 2010)

**This copy of Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks was purchased by me with my own funds.

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