Sitting on a rock for the noon radio check, halfway down the South Fork, I feel no questions, no troubles, just a great oneness with all welling up inside me. This moment is all that is, all that ever will be. Memories can never equal the experience, and at best we can only attempt to visualize the future. The best we can do is absorb the most possible from Great Moments Like These. Quote from Randy Morgenson on page 270
Earlier this month, when I hiked the Eagle Rock Loop, I started reading “The Last Season” by Eric Blehm. I can’t even remember how I came across this book, but it seemed like a good trail reading book, so I had ordered it just in case I did the Eagle Rock Loop this spring. I got partway through the book on the hike, and finished the book Saturday evening. I just expected an intriguing story, but got so much more. It was so good, in fact, that I skimmed through the entire book yesterday to jot down some quotes to keep for reference and to use for this post.
I had never heard of the Randy Morgenson story until reading this book. After reading the book, I’m sure like a lot of people, I really wish I could have known Randy. But after reading this book, I felt like I had actually got to know Randy to some extent. It seems like we would have had a lot in common. I love being in the wilderness (or backcountry as they refer to it in the book) and consider the mountains to be my happy place. I have a love for the backcountry and like to see it taken care of (although I’m not nearly at the level Randy was). I’m into photography. I’m not much of a social person. I don’t want to have any kids. Cindy Purcell was quoted in the book as saying “His dreams had conflicts. His ghosts were big and scary. But his spirit was so full of joy and love that he could overcome his doubts and move through them.” I can definitely relate to that. It was kind of eerie how much of myself I saw in Randy.
After reading the book, I feel like there is so much I learned from Randy even though I never met him. At times I’m guilty of being what Randy referred to as a “trail pounder,” someone rushing down the trail not taking the time to enjoy the sights and sounds. Granted, I’m usually on a somewhat tight schedule and don’t have the entire summer to spend in the backcountry, but on my upcoming trips, I will have to try and do a better job of slowing down and taking it all in.
More than anything, Randy had taught her to “pay attention and don’t walk too fast. You might miss something.”Pg. 205
Both shared stories of how Randy helped them to keep their priorities straight – to take notice of their surroundings, to not rush through life, and to be gentle on the land.Pg. 306
While reading through this book, I happened to come across the “Out Alive” podcast by Backpacker Magazine, and have listened to several of those while reading through this book. Between those podcasts and this book, I have gained a whole new respect for the backcountry. After all, if something bad could happen to Randy, how much more likely is it that something bad could happen to me? But instead of scaring me out of the backcountry, the book reinforced my feeling that the mountains and backcountry are a special place. Such a special place, that even with the risks, how can I not want to spend time there? I will definitely be more thoughtful with my decisions in the backcountry, both out of caution for myself and anybody traveling with me, and out of respect for the environment.
In addition, I’ll definitely have to consider more off trail ventures in the future. I tend to stick to trails while I’m backpacking. I have always been intrigued by going to places off marked trails, but have never really had the courage to give it a try. After reading this book, I think there is definitely something special about finding those places that are rarely visited, or at least less so than places along the trails. Not sure I’ll do this much, but it’s definitely something to consider when I’m looking into trips and routes.
All of your life, someone is pointing the way, directing you this way and that, determining for you which road is best traveled…Here is your chance to find your own way. Don’t ask me how to get to McGee Canyon or Lake Double-Eleven-0. Go, on your own. Be adventuresome. Don’t forever seek the easiest way. Take the way you find. Don’t demand trail signs and sturdy bridges. Don’t demand we show you the mountains. Seek them and find them yourself…. This is your birthright as an animal, most commonly denied you. Be free enough from intentions to find goodness wherever you are and in whatever is happening. Here for once in your life you needn’t do anything, be anywhere at a determined time, walk in a certain direction. You can now live by whim.
Here’s your one chance to get lost, fall in the creek, find a beautiful place.Logbook passage from Randy Morgenson on pages 313-314
I doubt he will ever read this, but huge kudos to Eric for putting together this book. I can’t even imagine all the research that had to go into it. Thank you for forever capturing the life of someone all people visiting the backcountry should have as a role model. Even for those of us who never met Randy, we can get to know him through this book and learn from him even though we never met him. I think this should be required reading for anybody entering the backcountry.
I leave you with one final passage from the book, the quote from Randy Morgenson that closes out the book:
I wish only to be alive and to experience this living to the fullest. To feel deeply about my days, to feel the goodness of life and the beauty of my world, this is my preference.
I am human and experience the emotions of humanity: elation, frustration, loneliness, love. And the greatest of these is love, love for the world and its creatures, love for life. It comes easily here. I have loved a thousand mountain meadows and alpine peaks.
To be thoroughly aware each day that I’m alive, to be deeply sensitive to the world I inhabit and the world that I am, not to roam rough-shod over the broad surface of this planet for achievement but to know where I step, and to tread lightly.
I would rather my footsteps never be seen, and the sound of my voice be heard only by those near, and never echo, than leave in my wake the fame of those whom we commonly call great. Logbook passage from Randy Morgenson on pg. 324