Synopses & Reviews
In the spirit of Jon Krakauer's bestselling Into the Wild
, Eric Blehm's The Last Season
examines the extraordinary life of legendary backcountry ranger Randy Morgenson and his mysterious disappearance in California's unforgiving Sierra Nevada.
The granite spires of the High Sierra have historically been a refuge of inspiration and adventure for the likes of John Muir and Ansel Adams, as well as for the pioneering rock climbers of the 1960s. But these mountains are as perilous as they are beautiful: here is where the Donner Party was trapped and where scores of unlucky hikers must be rescued every year. The Last Season tells the inspiring, poignant story of Morgenson, who, over the course of twenty-eight summers living alone in this craggy wilderness, became a celebrated ranger in the National Park Service's most adventurous unit. For the solitary, introspective Morgenson, who grew up in Yosemite Valley and as a young man honed his mountaineering skills in the Himalayas, this was more than a job it was a calling. He became fiercely devoted to preventing outside forces from encroaching on the wilderness he loved.
But over the years, the isolation Morgenson had once cherished took its toll, and he grew increasingly estranged from his wife and friends. When, at the height of his struggles, he went missing without a trace in Kings Canyon National Park, where he had long patrolled, many suspected suicide or foul play. Morgenson, after all, had once said, "The least I owe these mountains is a body." As one of the Park Service's most intensive search-and-rescue operations unraveled, some wondered if they were searching for a man who did not want to be found.
Destined tobecome a classic in mountain literature, The Last Season is a work that is as captivating in its writing as it is compelling in its sense of adventure. It is the result of eight years of research by Eric Blehm to uncover the truth about one of the national parks' greatest mysteries. Blehm's reconstruction of a desperate search-and-rescue operation woven with Morgenson's riveting biography takes readers deep into the heart of the High Sierra and into the little-known and much-romanticized world of the backcountry rangers revealing in the end the mind and spirit of a complicated, original, and wholly fascinating man.
"Blehm (Agents of Change) offers a thorough if cumbersome account of the life of Randy Morgenson, a National Park Service ranger in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains whose zeal gave way to disillusionment before he disappeared on duty in 1996, after 28 summers on the job (although his body was found, how he died remains a mystery). The book begins with the day Morgenson left his camp for a three-day patrol and then failed to make scheduled radio contact. From there, the narrative weaves the events of the ensuing search with descriptions of ranger life, tales of past incidents in the area and Morgenson's increasingly fraught personal history. Blehm's exhaustive research is impressive, although the author struggles to find the proper balance of background information and narrative pace, spending, for instance, an entire page on a peripheral reference to the California Conservation Corps when a sentence or two would have sufficed. He does, however, succeed in creating an empathetic portrayal of Morgenson and a revealing look at the taxing, underappreciated calling to which he dedicated himself. Readers are left with an intimate sense of an intelligent if flawed man whose love of the mountains ended up costing him his marriage, his ambitions and his life. 16-page b&w photo insert not seen by PW." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Readers will experience the daily hopes of rescue and the eventual letdown when the search efforts must be called off. While the book is a tribute to one man, the descriptions of backcountry rangers lives will fascinate many." Library Journal
"A vibrant and ultimately tragic story of a man whose life was full of passion until the very end." Booklist
"As Jon Krakauer did with Into the Wild, Blehm turns a missing-man riddle into an insightful meditation on wilderness and the personal demons and angels that propel us into it alone." Outside
"Blehm mounts the search for Morgenson with a thriller's pacing....A potent testament to the enduring power and allure of wild open spaces." Men's Journal
"Blehm...deftly interweaves the story of Morgenson's life-long devotion to wilderness with a riveting account of the hunt for him." National Geographic Adventures
"A rambling, yet compelling portrait of a man who perhaps loved the wilderness too much." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Eric Blehm is the former editor of TransWorld SNOWboarding, the author of Agents of Change: The Story of DC Shoes and Its Athletes, and the coauthor of P3: Pipes, Parks, and Powder. He lives in Southern California with his wife and son.