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Backpacker Magazine – October 2006

Missing in Action: How a Backcountry Ranger With 28 Years Experience Disappeared

Did High Sierra ranger Randy Morgenson succumb to depression or disaster?

by: Eric Blehm


Suicide became just one of many plausible theories that swirled around the backcountry in ensuing days as nearly 100 rescue personnel converged to join the search in 80 square miles of rugged, high-altitude wilderness. Foul play couldn't be discounted either. On two separate occasions just the season before, Randy had reported feeling "threatened" by an irate climber and a cowboy. A special investigator assigned to the case quickly learned of the suspicion by some that Randy had hiked out of the mountains to start a new life. But most in the ranger ranks believed he was seriously injured and unable to call for help due to SEKI's unreliable radio system–a system Randy had complained about throughout his career.

As numerous search-dog teams, search-and-rescue volunteers, and air-support squads converged on the park, a tight-knit group of Randy's friends–fellow rangers–gathered around the picnic table outside the outpost ranger station at Bench Lake where Randy generally ate his meals. They employed modern search strategies and their own recollections of Randy's wilderness travel techniques to narrow down the possibilities of where he might be.

Unbeknownst to them, in a remote location far from a marked trail, a clue was waiting to be found near a waterfall–a backpack and some other gear, in a dangerous water-carved ravine, which matched the description of the equipment a backcountry ranger would be issued. This cosmic spot was also one of the beautifully wild and lonely places Randy loved.

Would these clues lead search parties to Randy Morgenson's location? Or would they only draw the rangers deeper into the mystery of his disappearance?

Part 2

See you at the SAR."Six veteran rangers had parted just weeks earlier with that foreboding, though not unusual, goodbye. They had never expected to reunite so soon at the Bench Lake ranger station–or that they would be summoned from their remote backcountry posts in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks to search for one of their own.



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Pissed
Apr 01, 2012

This piece masquerades as a full story when in reality it is just a teaser.

FUCK YOU, Backpacker. I will never buy another issue.

Don
Jan 11, 2011

Just finished the book, "The Last Season," and pretty much recommend it to anyone who is attracted to hiking / backpacking and the risks involved.

The subject of the story, Randy Morgensen, was a literal expert at outdoor living and surviving. He was beyond, in experience, what 98% of American outdoor people think they are. But, then, he was lucky enough to grow up in Yosemite with a father who bred him for the outdoors and then he just extended that training on his own starting with mountaineering training in India.

There is a location in the book of where a search dog went through the ice and had to be med-i-vaced out due to a paw injury. It had just alerted to something. The GPS location in the book doesn't make sense. Anyone understand that location ? It was easier for me to simply google "Window Peak, CA" and observe the terrain of Window Peak Lake which put me about 1/4 mile away from the spot referenced.

Em
Nov 01, 2010

What I hate is that they don't tell us how Judi felt or did after she found out

Emily
Nov 01, 2010

I have read the book The Last Season, all about his life and disappearance. I think he left the park, sent the divorce paper thing, and than came back and commited sucide.

LION 01
May 21, 2010

I ATE HIM YUM YUM

Anonymous
May 21, 2010

NOBODY IS AN EXPERT IN A WILD HARSH ENVIORNMENT
LEAVE IT TO THE MOUNTAIN LIONS

Anonymous
May 21, 2010

NOBODY IS AN EXPERT IN A WILD HARSH ENVIORNMENT
LEAVE IT TO THE MOUNTAIN LIONS

Scott
May 07, 2010

I knew Randy well during my six years as back country ranger. I can see both scenarios. If he left the back country I don't he could have stayed gone. He loved it to much. It was his home and rangering was the only way of life he knew.

Mario
Oct 18, 2009

It's all America's fault! Happy eco freaks?

DArmenta
Oct 14, 2009

Q. Did High Sierra ranger, Randy Morgenson, succumb to depression or disaster?

A. Both. One led to the other. End of story.

Aj
Jan 23, 2009

Great Book. Buy it. (please)

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