I’ve written before about the relative advantage one has in the modern world to be separated from friends and family.  Fundamentally, separation hasn’t really changed.  Your loved one isn’t with you and you’re not with them and in ways you didn’t really understand or remember going in, that sucks.  At the same time, in today’s world, I can be talking – even seeing by video – my loved ones in the USA in less than a minute with a the press of a few buttons.  My grandfather, serving in Europe during the second World War, had to rely on letters which took many weeks to go between.  And 80 years before that, when someone left Europe for North America, families would simply have to hope that before they all died they’d see each other again to hear how the story ended.

So, as in most areas of life, we have it pretty good today.

This comes up because Mary called me yesterday afternoon from the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, our favorite hike in one of our favorite places to visit. This makes us even in number of trips to the park as I had previously made one trip to the park without her.  It wasn’t nearly the same as being there with her (I wasn’t in fear for my life, I could breathe, my legs weren’t on fire, etc.) but it was nice to share it with her and hear her joy at being there.

I was just on my way to a local amateur astronomy club, of which I am now a member and of which I had assumed today’s post would focus on; alas you’ll have to wait) when she called and so had a half hour drive after the call to consider the phone call in larger respects.

You might reasonably think that Mary’s call to me would represent the largest distance between us during a call from Zion National Park.  In fact, you’d be wrong.  On my first trip to the park, the one without her, in 2007, she had a good reason for not being with me.  I was on my way to San Francisco to meet her as her team arrived from Tokyo during the Blue Planet Run. I camped in the campground for a few days and hiked many hikes and ate many bagels.  At one point, I distinctly remember because it woke me up and frightened me as I did not know I had cell signal in the campground – must be better at night, like AM – Mary called me from Tokyo.

Tokyo must be further from Zion than Santiago, right?

Well, it’s unbelievably close.

Tokyo to the Springdale campground is, according to a distance calculator I found online, 5,588 miles (using Great Circle distances, obviously).  Our “Find My iPhone” app showed our distance when I went to bed as 5,572 miles but the same online calculator showed 5,596 miles.  Of course, she was at Angel’s Landing which, by my calculations, was a little closer to Tokyo than Santiago.  And my apartment is not at city center which the calculator uses.  The bigger error, though, is where Mary was in Tokyo.  Which I didn’t know.

I do remember that she was very sick in Tokyo….A-ha!

Mary wasn’t sick when she called me at Zion.  She wasn’t in Tokyo yet.  I went through the run dates and my travel dates and then remembered I was in Yosemite when she called from Tokyo.  Mary was sick when she called me at Yosemite and Tokyo was the last stop before San Francisco and they only stayed a couple of days in Tokyo.  It was over a week after I left Zion that I reached San Francisco. I am completely sure she was not in Tokyo when she called me in Zion.

I think she must have just been leaving Mongolia or just into China when she called me in Zion.  They ran from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing.  I calculated those two distances and took an average and it came out to a little more than 6,200 miles.  So, I’m pretty sure that one has to remain as our most distant Zion connected call.

I’m really hoping we don’t get a chance to beat it.



Two postscripts:  In the photo, that isn’t Angel’s Landing.  Also, if someone at our wedding had toasted that before 20 years were up we would have made two calls to one another, each from Zion and the other in either Mongolia or Chile, how drunk would we have considered that person?  Drunker than anyone actually was, apparently, and that’s saying something.




4 thoughts on “Massively Long Distance Calls from Zion, A Family Tradition

  1. You are so weird!

    You must really be missing Mary right now or be extremely fatigued to spend so much time thinking about this. That being said, are you or Mary or both the responsible party that calculates the ratios and distances that end up in your Christmas letter? Because that is my favorite piece of mail all year! So if this is the process you go through to get that figured out, keep up the weird work! 😉


    1. I am weird. I am very definitely really missing Mary. But I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about maps, distances and strange numerological relationships. This is nothing unusual. I’ve always thought that was a great phone call. At least one of those calls in there we were 12 time zones apart. Which, apart from being apart, is pretty cool.


      1. Yeah, that is pretty cool (except for one of you being up in the middle of the night for the call). It doesn’t make you any less of a nerd: I can see (again) why you and Mary are a good fit!

        Is Mary coming to visit before you leave? And when is your sojourn over?


  2. Mary will be down here at least one more time. I’m back in July. We had a grand plan for visits when this first got put together but for various reasons best not to go into online, it didn’t work out.


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