Outside Magazine: April '06 Lead Review
DIGGING DEEPER: Books and Media
By Bruce Barcott
On the morning of July 21, 1996, Randy Morgenson, a veteran backcountry ranger at Kings Canyon National Park, in California's High Sierra, pinned anote to his tent. Ranger on Patrol for 3-4 days, it read. He was never seen again. In The Last Season, Eric Blehm, former editor of TransWorldSnowboarding, takes readers behind the scenes of the exhausting hunt for Morgenson, during which the ranger's colleagues considered a number of scenarios. Was it an accident? Suicide? Foul Play? Or did Morgenson, depressed by his pending divorce and an affair with a female ranger, simply walk out of the park—and his life. Blehm has written two books, both about action sports, but The Last Season has the feel of a big-league writer coming into full voice. And Morgenson proves to be a worthy subject. A passionate wilderness defender, he had logged 28 seasons at Kings Canyon and was a search-and-rescue sage. "Randy knew the country better than the map did," one ranger told Blehm. Which only deepened the mystery: If Morgenson didn't want to be found, his colleagues would never be able to track him down. Five years after official search operations ended, a trail of clues turned up in a remote area of the park. Yet Morgenson's disappearance, Blehm writes, "will always be open to speculation." 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.