A friend recently handed me “Ranger Confidential” by Andrea Lankford and told me I had to read it. Now, I am neither outdoorsy nor have I visited that many parks, but this book was a fun read. Over the course of the vignettes, Lankford introduces us to a colorful cast of characters, from the overly expressive “Sheriff Lobo” to the obviously adored Mary Litell Hinson, and takes us through some of the adventures they’ve had in our national parks.
Not every adventure is a good adventure, though, and Lankford struck a good balance in her descriptions of tragedies. She told the story as it was, without giving in to any voyeuristic impulses and always kept toward the line of respecting those who had perished or suffered during their time in the park. She also effectively educated her reader about the many dangers one can encounter in the park and how to avoid them. If anything, that was the greatest takeaway from this book, and may even prove useful should I venture into a National Park any time soon.
What I took issue with, however, were the descriptions of the rangers; often overly objectified (both men and women), I felt like I was violating whoever was being described, even at such a remove of reading a book. Lankford would describe how a women’s climbing harness fit her taut backside, or how a short male ranger was packed into his body. Typically, I’m not someone to be put off by a brief description of a body, but the repetition and detail that Lankford used really cast a pallor over my reading experience.
So! If you’d like to read some interesting anecdotes about working for the NPS in the 1990s, this is a great book! If you want something well written, perhaps looks for something else–I’d highly recommend “Deep Survival”, by Laurence Gonzales.