This story was re-broadcast on our May 23, 2020 episode. It originally aired on December 3, 2016.
Naming no names, a person gets tired of humanity now and then. She wants silence, and a re-acquaintance with her own thoughts — if any are left.
I found a remote mountain loop where there’d be very little chance of running into anyone else with a Luna bar and a set of carbon hiking poles. I brought the dog (she was tired of humanity, too), two liters of water and the 10 essentials for hiking safety.
The day was glorious, with wind and the sounds of nearby water. While we walked, I talked to the dog in quiet tones about a couple of things that had been on my mind. Mostly, we moved in silence. It was a pleasure to be so far from people.
The trail grew steeper. This was to be expected — but neither of us had expected this degree of slope. Our brisk paces flagged; we pretended we were enjoying the foliage. But we weren’t.
"In the middle of nowhere, someone had built the stairway to heaven."
Misery and defeat: a few hours in. There was nothing but up, a hard, "New Hampshire" up, with no switchbacks for relief. It dawned on me that we might not make it much farther. The dog had already reached this conclusion. She furrowed her brow and sat.
What seemed like an impassable rock mass appeared in the distance. When we came closer, we could see what it actually was: four small boulders. They’d been levered into a set of stairs, fit so tightly together you could see tool marks. Above them were more levered boulders — a second set — and a third flight of steps above that.
In the middle of nowhere, someone had built the stairway to heaven.
A crew of strong, sweating, perhaps shirtless workers had carried shovels, levers and hammer drills all these miles to nowhere (and back again afterwards). They’d jimmied rocks into steps for the benefit of hikers they would never meet. We were anonymous to them — but that made no difference. They knew we’d be coming.
Revived, the dog vaulted up. I followed, and from the top, breathing easier, looked down, way down. These stairs were miraculous. People, I thought, are truly marvelous.
This segment aired on December 3, 2016.