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Destined to become a classic of adventure literature, The Last Season examines the extraordinary life of legendary backcountry ranger Randy Morgenson and his mysterious disappearance in California's unforgiving Sierra Nevada—mountains as perilous as they are beautiful.

Eric Blehm's masterful work is a gripping detective story interwoven with the riveting biography of a complicated, original, and wholly fascinating man.

Published: HarperCollins on Oct 13, 2009
ISBN: 9780061869990
List price: $8.99
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Randy Morgenson spent 28 seasons as a backcountry ranger in the High Sierras. It's possible to say that no one knew more about the area and what it took to survive there than him. Without a doubt, no one had a greater love for the land. So no one expected what happened in the summer of 1996.Randy Morgenson vanished.Did he want to disappear? Was there an accident? Could he have been murdered? Did problems from the off-season spill into the backcountry and lead him to suicide?All of these questions are confronted as this book combines the mystery of Randy's disappearance with the story of Randy's life, the tales of the backcountry and an intricate portrait of a modern search and rescue mission. Eric Blehm pieces together parts of Randy's own journals and logbooks with hundreds of interviews of friends, family and coworkers to combine each of these parts of the story seamlessly.Blehm does a good job of building suspense and propelling the reader deeper into the book, so anyone who likes a mystery will probably enjoy this book. But, for those who have any interest in the outdoors, national parks, search and rescue operations, or anyone who has enjoyed Jon Krakauer's books, you are sure to like it!read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Randy Morgenson, a seasonal back country ranger in Kings Canyon National Park disappears on patrol in 1996. This well written account of the search also is revealing about Randy, his childhood growing up in Yosemite, and the perennial issues of find yourself. I got immersered and read it in 2 days. Recommended even if you are a mountain rat.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A true mystery that kept me wondering about the feelingsand circumstances that influenced the situation. The book mademe appreciate the love of a naturalist.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Fascinating story of idealistic back country park Ranger Randy Morgenson and the search for him after he disappeared in King's Canyon National Park. The author paints a wonderful picture of Randy throughout his life; his love for the true wild places of nature and his struggle to balance his desire for summers alone in the wilderness and the stress it put on his marriage. Morgenson is a tragic figure and proof that dreamers and idealists will struggle mightily in our cynical society.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
An enjoyable true-life missing person story from the King's Canyon National Parks region. I believe the story first showed up as a magazine piece in Outside. The first 100 pages or so took me a bit to get into. Eric Blehm's writing style at first seemed a little over the top in regards to how he described some of the wilderness areas the story is set in. It seemed at times that he was writing for an audience that never visited a national park, much less hiked on an overnight trip. Sentences like these, describing Randy’s spartan conditions, got on my nerves:“Hardly the log cabin vision that the words ‘ranger station’ evoke, the primitive residence was little more than a 12-by15-foot canvas tent set up on a plywood platform.” (page 6)Well, yes, that’s what rangers in the field usually stay in. It’s called a wall tent. I go hiking maybe twice a season, so I am no weekend warrior, but everyone has seen these in the parks. Perhaps I’m being picky, but I do feel that it is more likely that the people who are going to read this book might be more wilderness oriented folks. I could be wrong. But over the last month, I have mentioned this book to students and co workers and all of the ones who have read it are avid hikers and backpackers. Regardless, it’s an entertaining book that did appeal to this fan of the wilderness. After I got to page 100, the remaining 250 pages went by fast. Some thoughts on the story (spoilers below): Randy Morgenson is our main character, a back country ranger of some 28 consecutive seasons working in the national park. A bonafide mountain man. Blehm weaves Morgenson's upbringing and life into chapters that cover the 60's to 90's with other chapters which focus on the Search and Rescue operation to find him in 1996. The background chapters provide context for the SAR chapters. The main background themes for Randy include his love for the wilderness, his untraditional marriage with his wife Judi, and his somewhat selfish and uncompromising sense of environmentalism. Blehm does a pretty good job of taking the materials available to him (journals, ranger log books, anecdotes, ect) and creating a character for us to feel anxious for. The SAR chapters were interesting to me because I felt I was learning about all the particular details that go into managing such a huge search and rescue operation in a wilderness area famous for swallowing bodies and never giving them up. It was a little like CSI in a national park. Both sets of chapters gave a sense of how divided and splintered the NPS bureaucracy has become. Particularly on ways that seasonal staff and "lifers" are treated differently. The book does paint a picture that is 15 years old, so perhaps things have changed.Much of the tension in the book is built upon what actually happened to Randy. Is he dead? Did he meet a terrible accident? Is he alive but can't be found? Did he commit suicide? Was there foul play? Did he simply leave the park and go to Mexico? Fortunately, this is not one of those books that leaves the question unanswered. The book ends with a fairly clear answer. This however, is where I became a little disappointed. Randy's body is found and the evidence provided is clear that is was merely an accident. Blehm, in my opinion, though gives a little too much credence to some of the fanciful supernatural anecdotes that pop up throughout this story. For instance, a hiker has a vision of Randy floating in a pool of water. Judi has a dream about Randy in the bottom of a lake? Randy is eventually found in a creek after probably falling into a frozen lake further up stream. Coincidence or were some people being alerted via psychic powers? Come on, seriously? I think it’s safe to say that there were probably lots of people involved in the SAR that were having nightmares about all sorts of scenarios: cliffs, avalanches, foul play? It's a stressful operation and it wouldn't surprise me of lots of hunches were being mentioned. It just so happens that Randy did fall in a frozen lake and there happened to be a hiker who had a vision about a man trapped underwater and/or Judi having a dream about Randy at the bottom of a lake. However, it seems that Blehm is just searching for evidence that fits this one fanciful theory instead of the other way around, aka the scientific method. You could say that Blehm is just merely telling the story that people told him. But think of it this way, Blehm was also told about an alien abduction theory, which is also ludicrous, and he only gives that theory 2 sentences. Why give page upon page to these other ludicrous theories? Hmm, perhaps to satisfy the paranormal fan? Fine, but paranormal fan I am not, and giving it fair weight with the more rational theories weakens the book in my opinion. Skeptical criticism aside, the human drama played out on these pages does satisfy. I could go on about the bad taste that Randy's particular sense of ecological balance left in my mouth, but I'll save that for an Edward Abbey review. The memory of Randy get’s enough flak from the marital problems hung out to dry in this book. Overall though, still a good read with some good sleuthing, psychological profiling, all set in a backcountry wilderness. If you love hanging out in the woods, going hiking, or just like true mysteries, this book is for you.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This book has inspired me to plan a hike in Sequoia and Kings Canyon this summer. Maybe in my next life I'll volunteer to be a backcountry ranger.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

Randy Morgenson spent 28 seasons as a backcountry ranger in the High Sierras. It's possible to say that no one knew more about the area and what it took to survive there than him. Without a doubt, no one had a greater love for the land. So no one expected what happened in the summer of 1996.Randy Morgenson vanished.Did he want to disappear? Was there an accident? Could he have been murdered? Did problems from the off-season spill into the backcountry and lead him to suicide?All of these questions are confronted as this book combines the mystery of Randy's disappearance with the story of Randy's life, the tales of the backcountry and an intricate portrait of a modern search and rescue mission. Eric Blehm pieces together parts of Randy's own journals and logbooks with hundreds of interviews of friends, family and coworkers to combine each of these parts of the story seamlessly.Blehm does a good job of building suspense and propelling the reader deeper into the book, so anyone who likes a mystery will probably enjoy this book. But, for those who have any interest in the outdoors, national parks, search and rescue operations, or anyone who has enjoyed Jon Krakauer's books, you are sure to like it!
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Randy Morgenson, a seasonal back country ranger in Kings Canyon National Park disappears on patrol in 1996. This well written account of the search also is revealing about Randy, his childhood growing up in Yosemite, and the perennial issues of find yourself. I got immersered and read it in 2 days. Recommended even if you are a mountain rat.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A true mystery that kept me wondering about the feelingsand circumstances that influenced the situation. The book mademe appreciate the love of a naturalist.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Fascinating story of idealistic back country park Ranger Randy Morgenson and the search for him after he disappeared in King's Canyon National Park. The author paints a wonderful picture of Randy throughout his life; his love for the true wild places of nature and his struggle to balance his desire for summers alone in the wilderness and the stress it put on his marriage. Morgenson is a tragic figure and proof that dreamers and idealists will struggle mightily in our cynical society.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
An enjoyable true-life missing person story from the King's Canyon National Parks region. I believe the story first showed up as a magazine piece in Outside. The first 100 pages or so took me a bit to get into. Eric Blehm's writing style at first seemed a little over the top in regards to how he described some of the wilderness areas the story is set in. It seemed at times that he was writing for an audience that never visited a national park, much less hiked on an overnight trip. Sentences like these, describing Randy’s spartan conditions, got on my nerves:“Hardly the log cabin vision that the words ‘ranger station’ evoke, the primitive residence was little more than a 12-by15-foot canvas tent set up on a plywood platform.” (page 6)Well, yes, that’s what rangers in the field usually stay in. It’s called a wall tent. I go hiking maybe twice a season, so I am no weekend warrior, but everyone has seen these in the parks. Perhaps I’m being picky, but I do feel that it is more likely that the people who are going to read this book might be more wilderness oriented folks. I could be wrong. But over the last month, I have mentioned this book to students and co workers and all of the ones who have read it are avid hikers and backpackers. Regardless, it’s an entertaining book that did appeal to this fan of the wilderness. After I got to page 100, the remaining 250 pages went by fast. Some thoughts on the story (spoilers below): Randy Morgenson is our main character, a back country ranger of some 28 consecutive seasons working in the national park. A bonafide mountain man. Blehm weaves Morgenson's upbringing and life into chapters that cover the 60's to 90's with other chapters which focus on the Search and Rescue operation to find him in 1996. The background chapters provide context for the SAR chapters. The main background themes for Randy include his love for the wilderness, his untraditional marriage with his wife Judi, and his somewhat selfish and uncompromising sense of environmentalism. Blehm does a pretty good job of taking the materials available to him (journals, ranger log books, anecdotes, ect) and creating a character for us to feel anxious for. The SAR chapters were interesting to me because I felt I was learning about all the particular details that go into managing such a huge search and rescue operation in a wilderness area famous for swallowing bodies and never giving them up. It was a little like CSI in a national park. Both sets of chapters gave a sense of how divided and splintered the NPS bureaucracy has become. Particularly on ways that seasonal staff and "lifers" are treated differently. The book does paint a picture that is 15 years old, so perhaps things have changed.Much of the tension in the book is built upon what actually happened to Randy. Is he dead? Did he meet a terrible accident? Is he alive but can't be found? Did he commit suicide? Was there foul play? Did he simply leave the park and go to Mexico? Fortunately, this is not one of those books that leaves the question unanswered. The book ends with a fairly clear answer. This however, is where I became a little disappointed. Randy's body is found and the evidence provided is clear that is was merely an accident. Blehm, in my opinion, though gives a little too much credence to some of the fanciful supernatural anecdotes that pop up throughout this story. For instance, a hiker has a vision of Randy floating in a pool of water. Judi has a dream about Randy in the bottom of a lake? Randy is eventually found in a creek after probably falling into a frozen lake further up stream. Coincidence or were some people being alerted via psychic powers? Come on, seriously? I think it’s safe to say that there were probably lots of people involved in the SAR that were having nightmares about all sorts of scenarios: cliffs, avalanches, foul play? It's a stressful operation and it wouldn't surprise me of lots of hunches were being mentioned. It just so happens that Randy did fall in a frozen lake and there happened to be a hiker who had a vision about a man trapped underwater and/or Judi having a dream about Randy at the bottom of a lake. However, it seems that Blehm is just searching for evidence that fits this one fanciful theory instead of the other way around, aka the scientific method. You could say that Blehm is just merely telling the story that people told him. But think of it this way, Blehm was also told about an alien abduction theory, which is also ludicrous, and he only gives that theory 2 sentences. Why give page upon page to these other ludicrous theories? Hmm, perhaps to satisfy the paranormal fan? Fine, but paranormal fan I am not, and giving it fair weight with the more rational theories weakens the book in my opinion. Skeptical criticism aside, the human drama played out on these pages does satisfy. I could go on about the bad taste that Randy's particular sense of ecological balance left in my mouth, but I'll save that for an Edward Abbey review. The memory of Randy get’s enough flak from the marital problems hung out to dry in this book. Overall though, still a good read with some good sleuthing, psychological profiling, all set in a backcountry wilderness. If you love hanging out in the woods, going hiking, or just like true mysteries, this book is for you.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This book has inspired me to plan a hike in Sequoia and Kings Canyon this summer. Maybe in my next life I'll volunteer to be a backcountry ranger.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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