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Discovery Channel Version Of NPS Mystery Also Offers A Challenge For Sharp-Eyed Viewers


Ranger Randy Morgenson disappeared in the rugged backcountry of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in 1996. NPS photo.

In July 1996 veteran backcountry ranger Randy Morgenson disappeared in the wilds of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. This true-life mystery was explored in the book The Last Season, and now the Investigation Discovery Channel offers a Hollywood version on its "Disappeared" series.

A promotional blurb for the TV show offers the following description: "Backcountry ranger Randy Morgenson was the go to person if someone was lost or missing in Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park, until the day he vanishes. Colleagues search for him in dangerous terrain uncovering unsettling secrets. What happened to Randy?"

Author Eric Blehm does a masterful job telling the story in his book The Last Season, and both the hardcover release and the later paperback version were reviewed by the Traveler. The book won the 2006 Barnes and Noble "Discover Great New Writers" Award for non-fiction and the National Outdoor Book Award in the category of biography/history.

The story of Morgenson's disappearance seemed a natural fit for the Investigation Discovery Channel's "Disappeared" series, and the episode is running several times this week under the title "Radio Silence." In case you missed it last night, it will be repeated on Saturday, January 19 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time.

The producers of the show included at least one slip-up that offers a fun challenge for sharp-eyed viewers, and it's visible on the program's promotional "trailer" available on-line at this link. If you'd like to see if you can catch the error, here's a hint.

Included in the trailer is an interview with now-retired NPS Special Agent Al De La Cruz, who was working at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks at the time of Morgenson's disappearance. De La Cruz had a key role in the real-time investigation of the incident, and the TV show includes a recreation of a visit by De La Cruz to Morgenson's backcountry tent cabin to search for clues.

The "oops" is visible more than once in the brief scene in the tent cabin, in which an actor plays the part of De La Cruz. Can you spot it?

If you've read Blehm's book, or are otherwise familiar with the Morgenson story, what was your reaction to the Discovery Channel's version?


There is no such things as an interpretive badge. There is only one ranger badge. It is worn by anyone in the ranger uniform. Can be rangers, resource management, administration, maintenance, regional directors - anyone. The law enforcement shield is worn by people with law enforcement commissions. When it was established, it was agreed that the shield would never be worn on the uniform - only carried as a credential. That changed in the late 90s.

Good job, KAJ and ranger85!

Seems like a rather strange oversight with the name, does it not?

The actor portraying Special Agent De La Cruz is wearing a nameplate that reads "RANDY MORGENSON". That's a mistake, obviously.

The pants that the actor is wearing are khaki, not olive drab, as NPS Rangers wear.

His name tag has the missing Ranger's name

jayranger -

Good observations. The incident was in 1996, so the recreation of the scene should reflect badges and firearms from that time period. I don't recall precisely when some of those changes, such as badges for Criminal Investigators, were made.

The specific error I spotted involves the nametag.

Is it the badge? The guy looked to be wearing an interpretive badge, and not a law enforcement badge. Also...the pistol in the chest was a glock.

Its nice to see more stuff about rangers in the media, something to conteract things like Brickleberry.

Rik -

You're correct, and when you mentioned the nametag, you're getting really warm for the specific oversight I had in mind!

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