The Last Season tells the true story of the life and disappearance of Randy Morgenson who, over the course of twenty-eight summers spent in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, became arguably the most celebrated ranger in the National Park Service’s most adventurous unit. For the solitary, introspective Morgenson, the job was a calling, and he became fiercely devoted to protecting the wilderness he loved from visitors—and those visitors from the wilderness. But the intense isolation and a series of personal setbacks took their toll, and when Morgenson vanished without a trace in 1996, many suspected suicide or foul play.
The Last Season is an intriguing adventure narrative, complex psychological portrait, and compelling mystery. Was Morgenson murdered by one of the two disgruntled park visitors he had felt threatened by just the summer before his disappearance? Did the guilt he suffered after being unfaithful to his wife and his growing despair with the state of the Park Service drive him to take his own life? Had he simply met with some unfortunate accident and been unable to call for help because of the parks’ substandard radio system—a problem he had complained about numerous times in the past and documented in his yearly reports? Or could Morgenson’s isolation and increasing despondency have prompted him to walk out of the wilderness and begin a new life? He had, after all, hinted about doing just that.
Eric Blehm spent eight years piecing together the portrait of Morgenson from journals, letters, photos, and interviews with his wife, friends, and colleagues. He hiked the same trails Morgenson hiked, scoured park archives and peak registers, and read the same books Morgenson had read in the months leading up to his disappearance. (The last book Morgenson had been reading held the chilling line “… I shall go on some last wilderness trip, to a place I have known and loved. I shall not return.”)
The Last Season won the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for best nonfiction book of 2006 by a new author, as well as the National Outdoor Book Award (NOBA). It was a finalist for the Banff Mountain Book Festival in the category of mountain literature, and was named by Outside magazine in 2010 as one of the top ten “greatest adventure biographies ever written.”