Thursday, July 17, 2008

Review: The Last Season

Just finished reading Eric Blehm's The Last Season. It's about the disappearance of Randy Morgenson, a 28-year veteran seasonal backcountry Kings Canyon National Park ranger who died on the job in 1996. He was in the process of a divorce and wasn't in a good state of mind when he disappeared, so people weren't certain whether he'd left the mountains on his own, committed suicide, or died an accidental death in the mountains (which ended up being what happened, confirmed when his remains were found five years later). I highly recommend the book to anybody that loves the Sierras or just suffers from wanderlust. Not that it will cure wanderlust--it won't it, it will instead make you think seriously about ways to get the EMT/WFR/law-enforcement credentials you need to become a ranger, but it's a good book.

One thing I found interesting was the many original nature writings of Morgenson himself. Morgenson was friends with Ansel Adams and Wallace Stegner, and early on in life tried unsuccessfully to get his wilderness writings published. Stegner gave him some helpful criticism, saying that when writing about nature, you need to talk about a very specific occurrence rather than mountains or sunsets or beauty in general, and that John Muir got away with it because he was an "exclamatory genius." I've found that to be true--when recalling my own hikes or reading Muir, Abbey, or Morgenson, it's specific encounters with friendly people, big animals, or other definite specific things that seem to be far more interesting than why people like mountains in general.

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