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Another Epic Tale from the Sierra

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Another Epic Tale from the Sierra

Postby gdurkee » Thu Mar 23, 2006 10:31 pm

OK. An epic tale of weirdness is about to come out at a bookstore near you. Eric Blehm's "The Last Season" about one of the rangers I used to work with -- Randy Morgenson. He disappeared in 1996 on a patrol in Kings Canyon. He'd been a ranger for 25+ years, had grown up in Yosemite so we knew he wasn't lost. But, at the time of his disappearance, his life was not in total Zen order.

A really grim time for all of us involved. Eric does a pretty incredible job of describing not only Randy's life -- why he was really only together in the backcountry; but the search; the exciting & glamorous life of a ranger: the fast cars, the alluring women; our investment strategies... . Kind of Fear & Loathing meets John Muir.

Total Disclosure: Eric spent an inordinate amount of time camped out in my email box. But, amazingly, I actually found the book compelling -- I mean, I was there, but I kept wondering what would happen next.

So, keep an eye out for it.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060583002/sr=8-1/qid=1143178208/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-4538935-3353656?%5Fencoding=UTF8

George
Last edited by gdurkee on Sat Mar 25, 2006 9:30 am, edited 2 times in total.



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Postby AldeFarte » Thu Mar 23, 2006 10:48 pm

George, Sounds like an interesting book. I will look for it. Have you read "Nature Noir" by Jordan Fisher Smith? It's a "ranger" book. I found it a good read . A crazy time in a crazy place. jls
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Last season

Postby gdurkee » Thu Mar 23, 2006 10:55 pm

AldeFarte:

Hey, you thawing out yet? Yes, I read Nature Noir and thought it was great -- the best book on rangering that's come out. Good to have a ranger who can write -- a lot of the stuff written by rangers often doesn't work as narrative -- great vignettes of adventure, but until Jordan, no one had brought the whole thing together. I think Eric succeeds at that also (though he's a boarder/surfer dude and not a ranger).

Stay warm. Still two feet of snow here. We may see the sun someday... .

g.
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Postby BSquared » Fri Mar 24, 2006 7:58 pm

This sounds fascinating, George, and thanks, AldeFarte, for the Nature Noir recommendation, too. Now if only I had time to actually read anything...
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Postby Shawn » Fri Mar 24, 2006 9:07 pm

Hey George,

I read a review of that book in a magazine and immediately jumped on Amazon to buy it. Unfortunately it's not being distributed unti the first week of April or so. Anyway, I'm glad to see it comes with your endorsement - but now I really can't wait to get the book. I recall reading of his disappearance and then again when he was ultimately discovered by the trail crew.

One magazine article stated that there has only been two people that were never found in KCNP subsequent to a SAR attempt, and he was one of them.
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Postby BSquared » Sat Mar 25, 2006 6:30 am

Has anyone read Deep Survival, by Laurence Gonzalez? I'm not sure where I ran across the reviews, but I think it was when I browsed Amazon after looking for The Last Season. It sounded interesting. Recommendations?
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Fear & Rangering

Postby gdurkee » Sat Mar 25, 2006 9:29 am

I read Deep Survival last summer. Another great book, though kind of uneven -- I think he was trying to work something out with his father's memory which was really peripheral to what he was writing about. (Howver, it's truly amazing his father survived to be his father -- that's a good story...). Also, he got kind of carried away with the physiology of fear/reaction etc (interesting stuff to know, but maybe too much detail and it's not clear some of it is directly relevent). That said, I really did think it was excellent. A few survival stories, but mostly general principles on who survives gnarly adventures and this guy's thoughts on why they survive.

It was also interesting because this is the kind of stuff they teach in law enforcement survival classes now. Basically, don't give up; If plan A doesn't work, you gotta quickly have a B & C; and, you have to be flexible enough to have a B & C &.... . Rigid thinking seems to be another common theme to those who don't make it.

On the two people missing in Kings: Randy was one and the other was a guy who wandered away from camp in 1976. Another big search with no results. So in 1990 or so, the Simpson ranger comes back from a day's hike and finds a skull on his porch and a note. A couple of hikers had found it in a stream channel. That was the guy from 1976.

Arguably, though, the 5 (? 4??) airmen who disappeared on the military flight just re-found last year would have boosted that number.

Yosemite has maybe 6 people who have never been found in the last 30+ years (that's just from memory -- could be more, though they might have found some of them and I hadn't heard). I think 3 were in the last 5 years.

Sequoia Kings was trying to get money this year to do an analysis of SAR data, map it, and try to come up with some generalizations of why people get hurt, sick or lost and, maybe, what we can do to prevent it. Alas, it didn't get funded. When you project a map of SARs, you get some interesting stuff -- the expected cluster around Whitney, but also a strange cluster in Dusy (and that was only 3 years data). Kind of like a Bermuda Triangle. It would be really interesting to do a Yosemite map of the same thing.

g.
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Postby BSquared » Sat Mar 25, 2006 7:53 pm

When you project a map of SARs, you get some interesting stuff -- the expected cluster around Whitney, but also a strange cluster in Dusy (and that was only 3 years data). Kind of like a Bermuda Triangle.


Having been over Bishop Pass twice in my long life and having got horribly altitude-sick both times, I'm wondering if this could be part of the reason for the Dusy cluster. That is, Bishop is a quick, popular, high-altitude way into the park, and people who are in good physical shape but unaccustomed to the altitude could easily get themselves into trouble there. Piute Pass would be another, but I've only been out that way and never in; do most groups spend their first nights in Humphreys Basin, thus either (a) acclimating or (b) getting rescued by the Forest Service instead of the Park Service?

Thanks for the mini-review of Deep Survival. I'll check it out of the local library instead of rushing right out to buy it ;).
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Bishop pass weird triangle

Postby gdurkee » Mon Apr 03, 2006 8:04 pm

I dunno. The Bishop Triangle continues to be a mystery. It is true that I see more altitude sick cases there -- why don't we see them at Kearsage? Don't know about Humphrey's -- that's USFS, but I don't think they get much there. Dusy actually even gets a couple of HAPE cases per season. Also, I've found more people there who are kind of irritable -- another sign of altitude sickness.

Weird.


And, Eric's book just came today in the mail. I actually hadn't read it since the manuscript stage. It looks good. Pictures and everything. I'd be interested in other people's reactions if you do read it... .


g.
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Postby Shawn » Mon Apr 03, 2006 8:51 pm

Eric's book just came today in the mail. I actually hadn't read it since the manuscript stage. It looks good. Pictures and everything. I'd be interested in other people's reactions if you do read it... .


I'm still waiting on Amazon to deliver mine............
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Postby Shawn » Sat Apr 15, 2006 12:30 am

I *finally* received my book yesterday. Can't wait to get into it.

Well George, I must say I am quite humbled after realizing that you must be the same George Durkee in the book. Anyway, the photos of you are great and you must be quite proud to have worked with those folks and to have been witness to so many things in the back country. My hat is off to you sir.

Did you happen to see this over on Yahoo Groups from another guy....

<snip>
The back country SEKI rangers have been heroes to me for a long time. Met up
with one of the longest serving and most experienced ones, George Durkee, a
couple of times in the back country. He's mentioned in the magazine story.
Someone should write a book about his amazing career and long experience. Better
yet, go out of your way to find him where he works and talk awhile. What a
gold mine he is. Not many lives are as richly lived, in my opinion. I can only
wish I could have walked the paths he's traveled.


Sums it up nicely I thought.

Shawn
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Tales of Adventure

Postby gdurkee » Sun Apr 16, 2006 7:50 pm

Shawn:

Thanks for the 'attaboy'. Really hope you like the book. I found it pretty accurate. Not for me (my huge, huge modesty prevents...) but I'm glad backcountry rangers are getting some level of attaboy. Not necessary, of course, but it's good that my buddies get some recognition for their dedication.

As far as the Yahoo! note goes, my goal is to lead a quiet life and attract no undue attention. The key is avoiding tall blondes. I've got an agreement with a couple of friends who, should I ever mutter "my wife doesn't understand me" will thow me into a walk-in freezer until I come to my senses... .

g.
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