Nonfiction 2006 | 335 pages
"The least I owe these mountains is a body." Randy Morgenson, McClure Meadow, 1994
This is a truly remarkable book, well written and researched with significant depth. I have an affinity for reading real-life backcountry adventures and even tragedies, but Blehm rises to the top of the pile of authors. His research is so inspired, broad, deep, and detailed, that I feel as though I know Randy Morgenson personally. Or, at least, I sure wish I had.
Randy Morgenson was a back-country park ranger for 27 years in one of my own favorite parks ... Kings Canyon National Park. In 1996, he disappeared while on patrol, off trail, high in the Sierras. Randy was not just compelled by these mountains, he was obsessed. It is hard to imagine his life without his dedicated years of this often disrespected, sometimes thankless, decidedly low-paying job, protecting the people from the Park and the Park from the people.
His life story is complex, with strong ties to and learning from his wilderness-inspired parents (he grew up in Yosemite, for heaven's sake!) His marriage to Judi was filled with love and respect, and yet he leaves her every summer for five months at a time. His knowledge of the land and its inhabitants is unparalleled. And he is is blessed with writing and photography skills.
The SAR ... the Search and Rescue effort after Randy's disappearance ... is written by Blehm with extraordinary sensitivity. It doesn't have the melodrama nor the boring technology detail some SAR stories have, and yet it is the most emotional and intimate search story I have read ... because it is conducted by Randy's fellow rangers. This is no tourist they are searching for ... this is someone they have spent years with, call a friend, and love.
I cried on page 291.
If you have any affinity at all for nature, the outdoors, the National Parks, or a well-told true story of love, passion, sacrifice, and commitment, read The Last Season.