People would ask her what it was like. She’d watch them from her tower as they weaved along the trail in their baseball caps and day packs, their shorts, hiking boots and sneakers. The brave ones would mount the 150 wooden steps hammered into the face of the mountain to stand at the high-flown railing of the little glass-walled shack she called home for seven months a year. Sweating, sucking at canteens and bota bags, heaving for breath in the undernourished air, they would ask her what it was like. ‘Beautiful,’ she would say. ‘Peaceful.’

But that didn’t begin to express it. It was like floating untethered, drifting with the clouds, like being cupped in the hands of God. Nine thousand feet up, she could see the distant hazy rim of the world, she could see Mt Whitney rising up above the crenellations of the Sierra, she could see stars that haven’t been discovered yet. In the morning, she was the first to watch the sun emerge from the hills to the east, and in the evening, when it was dark beneath her, the valleys and ridges gripped by the insinuating fingers of the night, she was the last to see it set. There was the wind in the trees, the murmur of the infinite needles soughing in the uncountable branches of the pines, sequoias and cedars that stretched out below her like a carpet. There was daybreak. There was the stillness of three a.m. She couldn’t explain it. She was sitting on top of the world.

Don’t you get lonely up here? they’d ask. Don’t you get a little stir-crazy?