Another Epic Tale from the Sierra

Discuss your favorite wilderness related books. Share your favorite poetry, quotes and folktales. Here's your chance to showcase your creative side!
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AldeFarte
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Post by AldeFarte » Sat May 06, 2006 12:14 am

Dittos to what Eric posted George. Without animosity, I must say that I have not got much use for ranger types , but like the Coast Guard, you are happy they are there when you need them. And someone has to "bop" the dummies on the head when it is due. The concept of honor, in general is sorely lacking in our society today. jls








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Blues
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Re: Weirdness in the Sierra

Post by Blues » Sat May 06, 2006 7:30 am

gdurkee wrote: Finally: Blues. Thanks for the attaboy and happy retirement. Maybe run into you in the backcountry.

Take care,

George
George, thank you for the well wishes. It'd be my distinct pleasure if we were ever to cross paths in the future.

As an aside, reading Blehm's book has now lead me to several other books amongst which are "Into The Wild", "Lost", which is based on the SAR journals of a ranger in the Smoky Mountains (now retired), as well as the sagas of Everett Ruess and Walter Starr Jr. (The latter two I am currently awaiting.) (I find that these books offer a perspective often overlooked in books on outdoor survival and skills.)
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Great Book! Amazing People!

Post by rzellner » Thu May 18, 2006 6:32 pm

I first heard about this book via an excerpt they had included in this months Backpacker Magazine. I was immediately intrigued. I knew I would be able to relate to the person the story revolved around because we have a lot in common. Nature, backpacking, photography, etc. I had no idea that this was only the beginning.

Other than sharing the same nickname, I, like Randy also spend a great deal of time away from home traveling for business. Nothing to the same extent as a backcountry ranger though. This book made me think....about a lot of things. There are many life lessons that can be learned from this story. I couldn't put it down.

This is an amazing read. Probably more so for someone who can relate to the thoughts, morales, and lifestyle of the extrodinary group of individuals this story centers on. If only in small ways. I now have A LOT more respect for rangers and what they do.

By the time I finished the last chapter, I felt dissppointed. Disappointed only in the fact that I felt that I had grown to know everyone involved and felt connected on a mental level to their thoughts and anquish felt during the timeline the book covers. Obviously, that can't be true. I haven't met anyone involved in the book. My hat is off to the author for doing such a great job though. Still I feel like I am losing something by not being able to continue the story. I can't help but think about things like, How's Judi doing? Where did all of the people involved end up? Who's still a backcountry ranger?

I'm very glad to see George is part of this discussion. Hopefully you will read this. I have a great deal of respect for you. Not only for the job you do. You are are a true friend to the Morgenson's. It's hard to find that type of character in a person. Especially today. I can only hope that some day our paths will cross and I'll have the honor of shaking your hand.

Being the amateur photographer I am, I would like to see more of Randy's photos. I'm assuming Scofield has them. I've got this question for you George. Is there any possiblity a website could be created with scanned images of some of Randy's work? If this sounds like a good idea and I could help in any way, send me an email at rzellner2@cox.net.

My best wishes to everyone on this discussion.

Thank you,

Randy

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Post by giantbrookie » Sat May 27, 2006 11:38 am

Wow, I can't believe I missed this thread. This has been a point of curiosity for me and my wife. We were up in the area where the fellow had vanished when folks were still looking for him. I remember my wife being pretty spooked by the whole thing ("what if we come across the remains") given that we were going all over the place in remote off trail destinations in the area (Arrow Creek, Window Creek, etc; didn't do the White Fork, although we did think about it). I remember speculating without knowing anything about the circumstances of his disappearance that he had probably died in a climbing accident on some remote technical route somewhere. We had encountered several backcountry rangers over the years and were in awe of their incredible physical condition. Given that, I figured this guy might have really been far off the beaten path when he vanished. We didn't realize at the time that our off trail travels took us much closer to the area he was found in than we might have expected.

Now with this book out, I guess I can't help but be curious and pick it up.
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Second star from the right

Post by gdurkee » Sun May 28, 2006 4:46 pm

Randy et al:

Sorry about the delay getting back to you on your suggestions. I actually like the idea of a web page for Randy M.s photos. Judi, his wife, still has all of them -- though she has given several prints to Stewart, myself and a few others. I don't have time this year, but next fall I'll talk to her and see about scanning some of them -- good idea!

As for Where Are They Now?: Most of us haven't yet found honest work. Several of the people in the book have left, alas: Sandy, Lo and Rob Hayden. Cindy Purcell and Dave Ashe have transferred and Randy Coffman & Al DeLaCruz retired. The rest of us are still there, steering for the second star from the right and straight on 'til morning... .

g.

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Post by Rosabella » Tue May 30, 2006 4:29 pm

Ah... Neverland! Lead on, George!

As far as "The Last Season" goes, I just now picked up a copy of the book. As I started flipping thru it, looking at the pictures, I almost thought I remembered seeing Randy. We were on the JMT in July 1996, and ran into a ranger around the Big Horn Plateau area on July 24th. The ranger we saw was about my height (5'6"), in his 50's, and very tanned. I went back over my notes from that trip, though, and I realized it wasn't him. My notes were: "The ranger had wild hair and looked rather like a mountain man but without the beard, and really knew the area" The without the beard was what I had forgotten. The notes also said that he lived in Lone Pine and was the Crabtree Meadow Ranger. Oh well.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading this book...

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Post by OldGeezer » Wed Jun 07, 2006 4:40 pm

I bought the book yesterday afternoon and am well over half way through it. I can't seem to put it down.

One thing for sure .... I'll NEVER view a backcountry ranger the same way again. I have gained a reverence for the Sierra like never before and look forward to my next visit with a ranger, be it in the front country or the back country. George Durkee, if you ever pass through Sanger and are looking for someone to take you out to lunch or dinner, I'll be there.
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Neverland

Post by gdurkee » Thu Jun 08, 2006 8:46 pm

Bill: Sanger! I actually go through there occasionally. Thanks for the offer. Not impossible it might happen sometime.

Rosabella:
The ranger had wild hair and looked rather like a mountain man but without the beard, and really knew the area"
That was the legendary Dario. Terrific guy. After 30+ years in the park, he definitely knows the area... .

g.

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Re: Neverland

Post by OldGeezer » Fri Jun 09, 2006 8:05 am

gdurkee wrote:Bill: Sanger! I actually go through there occasionally. Thanks for the offer. Not impossible it might happen sometime.
I'd look forward to that.

I did a little research and found another key player in the book is a fellow ham radio operator and writes children's books. What a diverse group you backcountry rangers are.
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have read it: eerie, well-written, way too close to home

Post by giantbrookie » Sun Aug 06, 2006 1:28 pm

Wow,

I just finished reading The Last Season. I hadn't realized that the remains were found just upstream of Window Peak Lake, for I had heard backcountry rumors that the remains were found in the White Fork. I have read other outdoor disaster or survival stories before, my favorites being Touching the Void (Simpson) and The Endless Knot (Diemburger); the latter is sort of the equivalent to the "Fall of the Mountaineering Gods". Both are very intense, but there was at least a sense of detachment for me, because the mountaineering involved was totally out of my league and in places that I probabaly won't ever plant an ice axe. This on the other hand, really cut to the bone, and it wasn't only Morgenson's own disappearance and end. The death of the climber on Devil's Crag for instance was so poignantly written--I've been close enough to such circumstances on both ends (ie the injured climber and his partner) in similar terrain. I could so vividly imagine myself in that position and it just gave me a creepy feeling all over.

The specifics of the search and recover are just downright creepy because my wife and I were there at Window Peak Lake in early July 1997, the year after, but four years before the recovery. Here's our little story:
This was to be the last big trip my wife and I did before other priorities limited our high country time (first aquarium fish, then kids). Our trip was a Sawmill-Taboose trip with lots of off trail fun branching from it, although it was actually the least adventurous of our big trips taken from 1992-1997. We had heard of the lost ranger, but somehow I didn't believe he would have vanished very close to where we were. We had met backcountry rangers in Seki before and viewed them with awe and respect--sort of these supermen and superwomen of the backcountry. My wife was sort of creeped out at the whole missing ranger story--"what if we stumble upon a body". I told her that (without knowing anything about the inside story) I figured the fellow must have been an ace climber who went off to climb some virgin technical route in the middle of nowhere and had a climbing accident. In my mind, his bones were bleaching on some far flung ledge or in some deep chimney in the middle of nowhere. It never occurred to me that he might have taken his last steps in the very area where we were.

On July 7, 1997, we dayhiked to Window Peak Lake from a camp at the Twin Lakes. This was a pretty long dayhike but I had hoped to explore every potential fish bearing lake in the drainage, including the one upstream of Window Peak Lake. We were a bit slower getting up there than I had hoped, otherwise we would have had time to go to next lake up and hike by the eventual recovery site. We found Window a bit frustrating. The fish weren't all that cooperative, and we struck but saw some decent rainbows running to 12 or 13". We did agree that it was, in our estimation, one of the two most beautiful lakes of the several hundred we'd seen (Amphitheater which visited on our Dumbbell Lakes trip four years earlier was still the favorite). So the fishing was a dud, but we were very glad we were there. I guess the closest we got to the recovery site was fishing the inlet stream. Again, we had no idea or clue...Our trip eventually worked it's way north from Twin Lakes, first to Marjorie, then to Bench with some superb off trail explorations that stumbled upon some otherworldly fishing (of the can't tell variety). On July 10 we did Arrow from Bench Lake via the saddle to Arrow Creek. We also detoured down to fish the uppermost of the Arrow Creek lakes (fishless). I looked at the terrain and topo map and thought about creative off trail routes connecting Bench and Window, but my wife and I agreed such routes would have cost us the three best lakes of the trip. Still we were a bit dismayed that this was to be our only big trip in which we didn't have at least one off trail campsite (all the good off trail stuff was dayhiking, except for a last day that investigated the lake south of Taboose Pass).

In any case, reading the book and all those familiar places we love so much: Window Pk Lake, Dumbbells, Amphitheater, etc. and the entire tragic story line was really personally haunting. I couldn't sleep the night after I read it.

I final note to George (that you won't get to read for a few months until you come out): Even if the book had never come out, I could sense from your posts your intelligence, integrity, and humanity. The book painted a picture of you that was very much in keeping with how I imagined you through your posts. I very much hope to meet you in the backcountry someday, or, should you come through Fresno, over a good IPA. I also will probably never view a backcountry ranger the same again. While I've always held them in awe and respect, now I feel like taking a bit more time to talk to them when I meet them: I sort of feel like I'd like to get to know them better. Anyhow, my hat's off to you and your backcountry brothers and sisters. You are indeed awesome.

Cheers,

John
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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