What Happened to Ranger Randy Morgenson?

Randy Morgenson had spent 28 summers as a ranger in the wilderness of Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks. A passionate protector of his beloved lands, he had become perhaps the most celebrated ranger in the Sierra Nevada.

He grew up in neighboring Yosemite, where his father Dana was a sought-after guide and naturalist. Photographer Ansel Adams was a family friend and gave Randy his first camera when he was a boy.

In July 1996, Randy Morgenson left his ranger cabin for the backcountry. It was normal for rangers to go on patrol for up to several days at a time and Randy was known to clean up illegal campsites and transport trash back to his station. It was also expected that he would check in via radio with the central ranger office every day.

This time, his colleagues became concerned after he was not heard from for several days, triggering a massive wilderness search that failed to find him.

What happened to Randy Morgenson?

Had he been injured, unable to return to his ranger station? Had his radio failed?

Or had he been murdered by unhappy park visitors he had dealt just days before his disappearance?

Had he climbed to a remote place and killed himself? Some said he had been particularly dejected in recent days, even weeks. He carried divorce papers his wife had presented.

Or did he leave the parks to begin a new life, perhaps in South America?

In The Last Season, Eric Blehm, after eight years of research, interviews, and treks in the country Randy explored, answers the questions. His book is a exhaustive narrative about the search and about Randy’s life, mixed with family history, the roles of rangers, and much more.

The book may have been better with less detail, but there was plenty of compelling storytelling to carry me to the end. Those who love the Sierra wilderness will be enthralled. Those who admire the work of wilderness rangers will gain new respect, especially for one who gave it all for the love of his life.

Top Ten Books From My Shelf

During the past three and a half years, I have read hundreds of books; when I finish one that I want to recommend, I post a review.

I have read fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, classics, and books by indie authors.

It was tough to leave out some I love, but here are my Top Ten, in no particular order. Click on the links to see the original reviews. A link to a list of all reviews is at the end of this post.

Okay for Now, Gary D. Schmidt. Junior high schooler Doug Swieteck’s voice touched my heart and made me laugh. This is no formula book; it is filled with twists as the boy seeks refuge from bullies.

Another Kind of Madness: A Journey Through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness, Stephen Hinshaw. The author discovers why his father was silent so much and absent from home often.

Rocket Boys, Homer Hickam. Adapted to a great movie, October Sky. The book is even better.

Chasing Zorba: A Journey of Self Discovery in a VW Bus, Jerry Steimel. Jerry is one of my favorite indie authors with this compelling story.

Free Country, George Mahood. George and his buddy set out, wearing just Union Jack boxer shorts, from Land’s End, with a goal: ride bicycles the length of Britain. They begin with no bikes. No money or credit cards. “What?” you ask. It is a true story. George Mahood is one of England’s best contemporary authors.

The Trail Provides: A Boy’s Memoir of Thru-Hiking the PCT, David Smart. I have read a tall stack of books about treks on the Pacific Crest Trail. This is my favorite.

Henry David Thoreau: A Life, Laura Dassow Walls. This one is a gift to those who appreciate Thoreau’s contributions.

Way Out There: Adventures of a Wilderness Trekker, J. Robert Harris. Many of us think hiking a long-distance trail is an adventure. J. Robert Harris’ travels redefine adventure.

Walden on Wheels, Ken Ilgunas. The author graduates college and begins a life that may make you think, “I wish I could do that.”

On the Shortness of Life, Seneca. A classic. Brilliant. I expect some of you have read this one–several times.

I appreciate very much your taking the time to stop by. I would love to hear what you think about any or all of these books, or your own favorites.

A list of all book reviews on Books and My Backpack.