[Reading] ➹ The Last Season (P.S.) By Eric Blehm – Peakpopa.info
To Pick Up The Last Season Is To Lose Oneself In A Mesmerizing Story About A Place Few Could Survive In And Even Fewer Have Visited The Unforgiving Backcountry Of The Sierra Nevadas Blehm Narrates This True Account Of The Disappearance And Search For Randy Morgenson, A National Park Service Ranger Who, One Morning After Seasons On The Job, Failed To Answer His Radio Call The Introverted Morgenson Was Comfortable With The Natural World Than With People A Gifted Photographer And A Lyrical Writer, He Dropped Out Of College To Begin A Career That Would Send Him Into The Remote Parts Of California S Sequoia And Kings Canyon National Parks Passionate About The Mountains, He Excelled At His Responsibilities, Which Ranged From Clearing Away Garbage Left By Careless Campers To Rescuing Injured Hikers Dedicated To Keeping The Wilderness Undisturbed, He Was Proud Of His Ability To Leave No Trace Of Himself Wherever He CampedThat Skill Would Prove Costly When, At Age , He Went Missing Blehm Seamlessly Combines A Detective Story With A Celebration Of Nature That Calls To Mind The Works Of Classic American Writers Like Thoreau And Emerson His Gripping Narrative Will Cause Readers Hearts To Ache At The Disappearance Of This Undervalued Soul But Their Spirits Will Soar At The Grandeur And Mysticism Of Nature Expertly Captured In Its Most Primal State Experiencing nature can be both mystical and terrifying There s something wondrous about being totally alone I have the memory of being in my car, driving down a completely empty road bordered by a vast expanse of wetlands just before dawn The sky, the stillness, the feel of the air, the unfamiliar muted colors unfurling across a vast expanse were breathtaking Contrast that with wandering off the barely discernible path in a forest with tree after tree forming a shadowed wall muffling all sound from the outside world The human psyche is not accustomed to being dwarfed, stripped of agency That has been the price of civilization.Author Eric Blehm examines both aspects of nature through Randy Morgenson Morgenson was a forest ranger not the kind we might imagine at one of the tourist attractions like Yellowstone, the kind tasked with protecting the people from the forest Morgenson was one of the less numerous and less visible backcountry rangers, tasked with protecting the park from the people Blehm quotes liberally from Morgenson s patrol journals where he describes the beauty of what he saw, and his misanthropic protectiveness toward the pristine wilderness However, he was also unfailingly kind and courteous to those who trekked or camped in the backcountry He patiently explained the consequences of a careless campsite, trampled flora, and even the foraging of pack animals Much of the book traces Morgenson s life and the problems his love of isolation created for him It was an exceptional life He eschewed a college degree, much to the disappointment of his father, for real experience A Peace Corp posting in India was followed by mountain climbing in the Himalayas He received pointers in photography from his father s friend Ansel Adams Fellow nature enthusiast Wallace Stegner was kind enough to critique some of his essays He was a mentor to scores of other backcountry rangers, and returned to the job of seasonal backcountry ranger year after year.On July 21, 1996 Morgenson set out from his post in Kings Canyon for what should have been a routine patrol lasting 3 4 days When no one heard from him, a search and rescue SAR plan was deployed This was the ost dramatic part of Blehm s narrative An assembly of experienced colleagues pored over topographical maps and Morgenson s most recent logs, and pooled information about his trail habits They established a search area It covered some 80 square miles A technique called the Mattson Consensus was used to prioritize parts of the grid, assigning probabilities to each area POA A computer program helped allocate which resources to use where airplanes, hiking teams, dog tracking An Incident Command System Protocol ICS organized the search and the information gathering exchange of the many teams Helicopters newly outfitted with night vision and thermal heat sensors were called in Despite all these resources, the search failed to find Morgenson Blehm describes the problems confronting the searchers He notes that a B 24 Liberator bomber crashed in similar rugged terrain in 1943 The wreckage was not discovered until 1960, despite numerous attempts made by the father of one of the crew members Boulders, ravines, mud and brush that could easily hide a body are not visible on a topographical map Moreover, the terrain itself is like a living thing Avalanches, mudslides, and rock slides add to the dynamic of rainfall, snow melts, and flash floods River beds recede and even change course The snow melt even in July is ice cold Shifting winds create drifts and disguise underlying hazards.Blehm attempts to convey the rugged beauty of the high Sierras to those of us who are not avid backpackers However, this book will be of greatest interest to those familiar with some of the backcountry trails in the area For the rest of us, we can only regard with new appreciation the dedicated underpaid people who share that attraction to the wilderness that captivated Randy Morgenson. I thought this was a great book and very well written I loved the descriptions of the Sierra Nevada backcountry However the book was about a missing backcountry ranger whom I found to be a deeply flawed human being While we re all flawed to some degree no one is perfect , the I read about Randy s behavior towards his wife, friends, and colleagues, the I grew to dislike him as a person He had a privileged childhood but could not live up to his potential as an adult He could not accept the rules and norms of society, even the ones he intentionally submitted himself to like his marriage vows He just seemed to me to be an insufferable maladjusted misanthrope Despite these harsh words it s not my intention to judge Randy and I know it isn t the author s intention for this book But I found myself disliking him so much that it actually ruined the book for me I had to force myself to put aside my feelings for Randy so that I could give the book and its author a chance I m glad I stuck with it because the end of the book was fantastic I never saw it coming Eric Blehm is a great author and I m looking forward to of his work My heart goes out to Randy s friends and colleagues, and especially his wife And I apologize for my harsh critique of Randy s behavior I just wanted to give my honest review of this book. What a great, great book Tells the story of Randy Morganson who is a back country ranger in the Sierra Nevada Mountains This is a man who has lived the majority of his life in the mountains and is clearly one of the finest in his rare and seriously neglected profession In 1996 it s been a month since I read it, so I may have the dates off he disappears early in the season Because of the turbulence in his life that lead up to the hiking season, there is plenty of speculation as to what really happened to him The story flips back and forth between his life prior to his disappearance and the efforts to find him Randy leads a compelling life, with friendships including Wallace Stegner and Ansel Adams He is always searching for meaning in his life, and always comes back to the mountains, where he is most comfortable I rarely read outdoor books and am not at all an outdoors kind of person, but this book moved me in ways I didn t expect I look forward to my first hiking trip as an adult sometime in the near future. This is a story about a park ranger, Randy MorgensternThe one they always turn to for help with search and rescue when someone is lost or hurt Everyone considers him one of the best An expert on the land and an expert in wilderness survival And then he goes missing himself I couldn t believe how the author kept me on the edge of my seat Reading detailed descriptions of Morgenstern s life and personality had me wondering if he could have made a fatal error in judgement that cost him his life Could he have finally gotten so done with society and his own personal problems that he could have ended his life Could he have been cruel enough to disappear in to the wilderness He was a somewhat sympathetic character, I couldn t help but admire his philosophy Be quiet and still and the mountains will reveal their secrets , however I spent much of my time reading about him alternately not trusting him or really disliking him I save five stars for life changing books This one hit close enough to home to give me nightmares Five stars for that.I liked the part where he and Judi were able to reconcile their individual needs and come up with a lifestyle that suited them both, but it seemed to me that as the years went on, Randy became and unable and unwilling to compromise his own ideals for her If he had left her for the mountains forever, that would have been one thing finally choosing his one true love But his affair with Lo seems unforgivable to me He keeps wanting Judi to join him in the mountains, becoming and hermit like as the years go by He seems selfish and unbalanced and those things scare me I loved the way that these characters love their country Having spent some time in the Sierra Nevadas, I had a good mental picture of the granite mountains, the meadows and the foliage described in the book From journals of several of the people involved came some of the most heartbreakingly beautiful place descriptions that I have ever read The people who live there and care for them really capture the magic and the mystery of the mountains. Ranger Randy was a flawed man, torn between a profound dedication to the life in and conservation of the high Sierras, a floundering marriage, and an ending affair He had a desperate need to protect the earth, and was an embittered employee in a park system that did not listen, nor thank in any meaningful way the seasonal backcountry rangers that are basically the elite guard and special forces rescue team of our national parks His love for art had been slipping from him as his personal life became uncontrollable, he was depressed, and he was in the throes of a middle life crisis, having to realize that being a backcountry ranger is a young man s game, and while he had TWENTY EIGHT years in the backcountry, eventually he would have to do something else.In the midst of all this, he disappeared one day Every one wondered, had he committed suicide, skipped town to start a new life, or had a terrible accident Where was he.This was a pretty brilliant biography if you ask me Luckily for Blehm, Randy was a prolific writer the man was friends with Ansel Adams and Wallace Stegner and most of his friends and family are still alive, so Blehm had an absolute abundance of resources to paint a very full portrait of Randy Can we ever really know someone through a biography Probably not, but they can still speak to us Randy spoke to me through this biography, at one point he questions of one of his friends why we are all so obsessed with est s richest, fastest, strongest When we travel at that pace, when est is our focus, we lose sight of the small things that truly make life We miss sight of the wildflowers in the meadow that were Randy s forte, we miss sight of small exchanges between friends and family, the dappling of sunlight, the call of a bird Randy s story is a call to slow down, and enjoy it Listen to nature around you I can get behind that message I love the echos in mountains, the scratching and trickle of sand in the desert, the whispering of prairie grasses, the conversations of forests Blehm really brought Randy forth despite his personal flaws I know that the next time I am in a park, that I will be even wary of leave no trace Randy wouldn t even light fires because it took away wood from the forest and decaying wood in a forest is a limited natural resource It will make me reconsider my interactions with the wild.More than that, while Blehm told Randy s story wonderfully, he also took the time to highlight causes that were important to Randy most notably the abysmal services from the NPS and government that seasonal backcountry rangers receive for their labor Unrecognized formally for their years in service because they are seasonal , unpaid in overtime for their many hours spent on Search and Rescue and sheltering and aiding hikers, and cleaning CONSTANTLY the trash left even in the backcountry by visitors, and denied even the most obvious of comforts like retirement and insurance, our backcountry rangers have given their lives for ours, and get so very little in return.We have so few mountain men left Then again, we never really had them, the mountains have them, and the mountains keep their own. I m a sucker for biographies and suspense novels and this one delivers both The story is fascinating and includes Yosemite National Park as a key character The book tracks the life and disappearance of Randy Morgenson, a long time back woods ranger in Yosemite Morgenson literally grew up in Yosemite his father worked in the administrative offices and the family had a home in Yosemite Valley The story of the family is well developed and includes accounts of their unlikely friendships with Ansel Adams and Wallace Stegner Blehm does drag the story out a bit as he is most comfortable as a magazine story writer and seems to add a few pages toward the end to give the book length The first 2 3rds of the novel make up for the fluff and are an excellently research biography and mystery. The audio book is really good, there is a bit too much repetition but Blehm s look at a the story of a missing ranger is a thumping good read. Blehm looks at the uber backcountry ranger Randy Morgenson In his 28th summer in a dismally paid, and little appreciated job, Morgenson, the nearest thing to John Muir in his neck of the National Park Service, vanished Blehm looks at this very interesting fellow, no simple mountain man In fact Morgenson was friends with Ansel Adams, who advised him on one of his passions Guess which He was also friends with Wallace Stegner, who offered his wisdom on Morgenson s writing Blehm looks not only at Randy s personal relationships, his failing marriage, his affair, his friendships, his love of the outdoors, the beauty to be found there, but at the role of rangers and how society supports, or does not support them We also learn much about the ranger life, the parks in which Randy worked, the challenges rangers and park visitors face This is a pretty good book for those interested in the outdoors, mountaineering, living close to nature It might not do much for those who do not have an interest in that genre. Blehm took me so deeply into the back country that Randy Morgenson loved that I felt the sweat collecting under my backpack and my muscles burning with exquisite exertion Despite, knowing the outcome of The Last Season, this book is predicated on tension that propelled me through the book with curiosity I read long past when I should have turned out the light because I could not stop at the section breaks I just had to read what happened next I m a fan of Jon Krakauer, and Blehm writes in a similar vein The book is beautifully researched, covers multiple points of view and opinions, and lets you ultimately decide for yourself what you think of Randy Morgenson, his life and his choices The book is structured with chapters which alternate between a biography of Morgenson and traveling step by step through the Morgenson SAR The chapters resonate with one another, clarifying and elucidating in quite lovely prose, with just the right amount of quoting, science, and beautiful description for me This was a terrific summer read Can t imagine why I didn t find it sooner, but so glad it landed in my hands at last.