“I really wanted to tell the truth behind the beautiful scenery.”
In a world of rugged landscapes and unpredictable elements, park rangers and first responders face challenges that test their limits. Sometimes that work can include critical tasks such as searching for missing hikers. Andrea Lankford is a former National Park Service ranger who joins to share her insights on the importance of firefighting and law enforcement in parks.
Andrea’s love for the outdoors lead her to study Forestry and Wildlife management at the University of Tennessee. She volunteered for the Forest Service for one summer and ended up going to the Seasonal Law Enforcement Academy in Silva, North Carolina. From there she was hired at Cape Padres National Seashore as seasonal law enforcement park rangers with the National Park Service. She fell in love with the job and ended up working for the Park Service for over a decade.
The opportunity to work in national parks like Zion, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon, had Andrea face the thin line between natural beauty and danger. She witnessed the harsh reality of nature and the risks that came with her role. Her experiences were not just about enforcing laws but also dealing with injuries, deaths, and missing persons. These intense experiences inspired Andrea to give voice to the heroic efforts of park rangers.
After years of serving as a park ranger, Andrea found herself drawn to the unanswered mysteries of missing hikers. The uncanny disappearances of three hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail piqued her interest. Using investigative skills honed over the years, she offered her expertise pro bono to the grieving families. Andrea’s experiences as a ranger proved invaluable. The resilience, people skills, and problem-solving abilities she gained were put to use in unexpected ways, proving the versatility and value of her background.
As a park ranger, she won several awards for her work as a criminal investigator and she implemented the “Heat Kills. Hike Smart” public education program credited with preventing heat-related deaths at the Grand Canyon—a program that continues to save lives today.
Andrea is equally passionate about using her influence to raise significant discussions around missing hikers and effective search and rescue strategies. Her storytelling seamlessly fuses personal experiences with professional insights. After you listen to this episode, make sure to buy her book Ranger Confidential. It is Andrea’s first book that takes you behind the scenes of being a park ranger and shares captivating stories from her time in the National Park Service.
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Connect with Andrea
Buy the Book Trail of the Lost
00:00:28 – Becoming a Park Ranger
00:01:09 – Career as a Park Ranger
00:03:35 – Investigation as a Park Ranger
00:14:40 – Importance of Empathy for Park Rangers and First Responders
00:15:44 – The Impact of Social Media on Search and Rescue
00:20:34 – Collaboration with Non-Government Entities in Search and Rescue
00:22:21 – The Use of Technology in Search and Rescue