Death Valley vs. Mount Whitney

“You should be so happy you didn’t meet me in Death Valley,” Jeremiah explained when we finally met at the McDonald’s (free Wifi and mediocre coffee) the next morning. “I could only sleep after dousing my clothes and silk sleeping bag liner with water—all night long,” he said. “It was 120° yesterday.”

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Photos from Jeremiah, the left taken in the afternoon at Death Valley Visitors Center; on the right the thermometer on his bike shows the morning temp as he arrives in Death Valley: 118° – ouch! I am definately pleased at my decision to choose alpine temperatures versus death temperatures!

After Jeremiah and I split up in January 2007, I never heard from him again. Not through the rest of my time in South America, nor Africa, the Middle East or Europe. I tried to connect with him many times to no avail. I never received another email nor heard anything about him. After my return to the USA in late 2008, my route across the country took me through his home town, Durango, Colorado. Through some investigating while staying in Durango, I managed to find the address to his ranch, which is located on the outskirts of town and down a dirt road. When I showed up in late October 2008, there was nobody home. So on his front steps I left the homecoming gifts and a note. Perhaps the local critters ravaged the food I’d left, but once again, no word.

I was worried. But moved on.

In January 2009, I made a pilgrimage the annual Macintosh computer show, MacWorld, at Moscone Center in San Francisco. Joining my friend Ken, it’d been some six or seven years since I’d been to the show. Wandering the massive show where two huge halls are jammed with exhibitors touting software, printers, iPhone Apps, monitors and more, it takes the better part of three days to completely check out the show. Midday on my second day at Moscone Center, at the eyeTV booth I spot a familiar profile. When the guy turns around my suspicion was confirmed. It’s Jeremiah. Here at one of the largest trade shows in San Francisco where nearly 100,000 people visit over 4 days I run into a guy I spent many days traveling with throughout South America.

He’s startled when I appear out of the crowd and ask him if he’s received any of my emails or telephone calls. There’s a lot of silence. Then after a few minutes of catching up it feels as if no time has passed. We relive those days in Bolivia when I broke my leg, and the crazy journey through Northern Mexico. Later that evening Ken and I meet Jeremiah and his buddy for dinner in Chinatown.

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Ken Hauck keeping afloat thanks to tens of thousands of iPhone Apps at MacWorld January 2009

We’ve been trying to coordinate a ‘reunion’ trip since those days in San Francisco. We’d finally agreed to beginning June 2010. Jeremiah started from Durango Colorado on the 24th of May. We agreed to meet in California on June 3rd. Through email, voice mail and text, Jeremiah suggested he’d be in Death Valley on the eve of the 3rd. I could get an early start from San Diego and meet him somewhere along the Eastern Sierra. I’d questioned Death Valley in June, and by the time I got to the turn off to Death Valley, I’d made the decision that it’d be too hot. For me, it would be better to meet in Lone Pine. So I made my way to the Whitney Portal Campground and sent word to Jeremiah I’d see him here the following morning.

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Hanging with Jeremiah in Chinatown, San Francisco January 2009

It’s a bit of deja vu. His bike looks the same. He’s wearing the same gear and helmet. Turns out, McDonald’s WiFi was down, so we continued our storytelling and made plans for the next few days at a nearby coffee shop outfitted with working WiFi.

Jeremiah is a former National Park ranger having worked at Rainier National Park in Washington, Canyonlands, and others. But this was the first time in many years since he’d been to the Eastern Sierra. With the Alabama Hills awash in red light as the sunset, we decided to camp at Whitney Portal — this would be my second night. For Jeremiah, the cool mountain air, rushing alpine creek and towering pines would provide the much needed relief and stark contrast to his night at Furnace Creek in Death Valley, where he surely felt he slept in a furnace.

Even Lone Pine experienced a heatwave this weekend. After getting up to catch the sunrise and riding the Alabama Hills, by afternoon we searched and found shelter and smoothies at a local shop before heading toward Bishop and points north.

The primary road north, California Route 395, with the majestic snowcapped Sierra Nevada Mountains towering to the west crosses the Owens Valley where Cottonwoods and saltbush scrub blanket the high desert to the eastern horizon where the White Mountains, home to the oldest living things on the planet, bristlecone pines, form the border between California and Nevada. Our destination, the historic ghost town of Bodie just outside of Bridgeport.

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Morning sun filters through the Ponderosa and Sugar Pines at Whitney Portal Campground.

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The Road to Whitney Portal Campground looks north up Owens Valley toward Bishop.

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Second night campsite along Tuttle Creek at Whitney Portal Campground outside Lone Pine, California

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Jeremiah taking a photo break while exploring the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, famously remembered for many Hollywood Westerns that were filmed here, including High Sierra, How The West Was Won, Gunga Din and many others.

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Nice riding in the Alabama Hills with the towering Sierra Nevada Mountains as the backdrop.

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Early morning, heading from Mount Whitney north toward Bishop.


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