“The Last Season” and “Three Cups of Tea” need to be on your reading list!

The Last Season
Book: The Last Season

[Repost from May 28, 2008] I just finished reading the book The Last Season by Eric Blehm and what a great read it is.The story is about Randy Morgenson, a backcountry ranger for twenty-eight seasons at Kings Canyon National Park, who goes missing in July 1996. The book details the search and events surrounding his disappearance, the life Randy lived until he went missing, and historical perspectives about the National Park Service backcountry/wilderness rangers and mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

I bought the book two years ago while browsing through Border’s here in Eugene. I read the front cover and thought to myself, “That sounds like a search I was on in 1996.” Well, I wasn’t wrong. I worked on the Yosemite National Park Search and Rescue team in summer 1996 as a search and rescue intern and we were called out to this search on July 27. We were flown to the backcountry where we spent five days searching for Randy in some of the most beautiful terrain one could imagine. For me, this book provided clarity and truth to questions that were only speculations at the time I was on the search. Though my book sat on the shelf for almost two years, I highly recommend reading this book today

You can learn more about the book here: http://thelastseason.com/.

Immediately following my completion of The Last Season, I dove into reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The book captured my attention so well that, despite trying to finish graduate school in the next three weeks, I read the book in three days. I haven’t read a book this quick since the Peace Corps three years ago.

This is truly an inspirational story on how one person can make a difference in a world filled with unnecessary conflict. Though he didn’t start out to be a spokesperson against the war on terror, he sure has found ground in showing that there is another avenue to create peace in this world than through current U.S. foreign policy. His story of perseverance to build one school in Pakistan has flourished into a highly successful NGO called The Central Asia Institute. It is built on an understanding of cultures and empowering women through education.

This book details Greg’s life and how he went to build schools, clinics, and other necessary institutions in rural areas of north Pakistan and Afghanistan. Through his story you learn about the politics, religions, and cultures of Pakistan and Afghanistan, mountaineering history in Central Asia, and U.S. influence, or lack of, in this region. It is a gripping story that truly inspires one to be a catalyst for peace in a world filled with conflict.

You can learn more about the book at http://www.threecupsoftea.com/. You can learn more the Central Asia Institute at http://www.ikat.org/.

Story Behind The Picture #3: Yosemite National Park Search and Rescue


One Eyed Brett Holt
One Eyed Brett Holt

Summer 1996 (Yosemite National Park): Lacerated pupil. On the evening of June 12, my roommate Greg and friend Melissa were in Oakhurst doing our weekly shopping. At about 10pm, we received a page to return to Yosemite Valley to assist in an ongoing rescue operation on North Dome gully. A climber had slipped down the gully earlier in the evening after climbing Royal Arches. When he slipped a rock dislodged from above and slammed on his left arm leaving him a compound fracture. He was losing blood and not able to descend on his own. I arrived on scene about 12:30am to assist in the lowering operation. Here is what I wrote in my journal:

“The lowering operation was consistent but slow. Lots of people falling, slipping rocks, sliding, lots of passovers. Around 300 feet from the bottom I was carrying the litter and sliding down a rock. As I went over the rock another rescuer went on the trail to the side of the rock. He stepped on a stick and it slammed me in the eye. I immediately fell and let go of the litter. I couldn’t see and had to be assisted down the hill.”

At the bottom, I joined the patient in the ambulance and we were both driven to the Yosemite hospital. The doctor was able to clean a lot of my injury but sent me to an eye specialist in Modesto for further examination. The specialist, Dr. Guido, concluded that I had a lacerated pupil but he wasn’t going to stitch it for fear it would scar and impair my vision. As a result I was driven to see him every day for two weeks straight just so he could see if any liquid was being released. I wore the bandage the entire time  and went on light duty. I did fully recover from the incident and completed my summer on the Yosemite National Park Search and Rescue team.

This photo says it all about where my nickname in Boy Kicks Girl came from. After Kevin saw me with the bandage, he immediately named me “One Eyed Brett”.

This selection of photos highlights many of the incidents I participated in during the summer of 1996. I searched for a lost backcountry ranger in Kings Canyon National Park scoured for bodies in the Happy Aisle rockslide, watched a highline walker on Lost Arrow Spire, befriended then unknown adventure photographer Tyler Stableford and enjoyed one of the best summers ever.