Friday, April 15, 2011

The Last Season...

The dogs and I headed out for a slow, longish walk today. Another day of a rainy mist. Cloudy and cool. This Spring has been wet and cold. The Scotch Broom is blooming. That's the yellow flowered bush on the left side of the photo above. Scotch Broom is an invasive that is taking over California. An awful, piggish plant; we pull it up in order to keep it off our property.
I finished reading Eric Blehm's "The Last Season" last night. This book chronicles the life of Randy Morgenson, who spent 28 seasons in the high Sierra as a backcountry seasonal ranger.

When it comes to books, the life experience of the reader is as important as the book's content. Since this book, unnecessarily, tries to set up a conflict of whether the ranger's death was a suicide or not, well, to me this hook cheapens the book. And cheapens the value of Randy Morgenson's life.

Morgenson disappeared in the summer of 96 when he was starting his 28th season. He was in a low point of his life, having had an affair in the summer of 94 which destroyed his marriage and led to divorce papers. Much of the book reads like a morality play regarding this event in the park ranger's life. Take care that if you are going to disappear on the trail that your life is sunny at the time, and not in one of those inevitable challenging episodes. If you are in a challenging time, the book written about you might not celebrate all the good you've done. No. The book will try to psychoanalyze you as to whether your unfortunate, mortal slip on a rock was a suicide.

Yes, people do have more accidents when depressed. I agree. But to wander through 400 pages of Randy Morgenson's life with the main question being: "Was it a suicide?" bothers me. This guy was a hero. Seasonal rangers don't come back for 28 years because this is a job that has no future. You don't get benefits. No retirement. Low pay. And damned hard on any relationship to be away for six months of the year.

Do we celebrate the fact that Randy's marriage lasted 25 years with this sort of half time relationship? No. But I write this as a psychiatric nurse. As someone who doesn't think that a person's life should be narrowed down to what the last crises has wrought in a person's psyche. People have a hard time handling change. True. All are vulnerable. But I find much more interest in Randy Morgenson from the life he lived, and not by what his relationship status was when he died.

Randy Morgenson was a friend of Ansel Adams. A friend of Wallace Stegner. He was the expert on the backcountry along the John Muir Trail. He lived his life out of love for the wilderness. Nice to get to know the guy through this book. I just quibble with the cheap sensationalism of the circumstances of Morgenson's death.


My Life Outdoors said...

I don't know much about Randy Morgenson but your review intrigues me. I agree that your latest life circumstance dosnt define who you are and I'm sure there ate many things in his life worth defining him. I'm sure the author is more interested in sensationalizing his death then to gain more readers then documenting who he was. That's the kind of world we live in.

Allan Stellar said...


Don't get me wrong, I very much enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who loves this sort of genre. I just quibble with a bit of sensationalism within it. Overall, it is a very good read--it is sort of like Into the Wild by Krakeour (spelling?).