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You're Just My Type: Hikers Compose Love Notes To The Grand Canyon

National park ranger Elyssa Shalla placed a $5 typewriter from Goodwill at Plateau Point in the Grand Canyon and invited hikers to share their thoughts.
National park ranger Elyssa Shalla placed a $5 typewriter from Goodwill at Plateau Point in the Grand Canyon and invited hikers to share their thoughts.

The Grand Canyon National Park — which was established on this day 100 years ago — now receives nearly 5 million visitors each year.

For three days at the end of 2017 and early 2018, some of those visitors encountered something unusual after a 6-mile hike down to a scenic overlook: a $5 typewriter from Goodwill and a note.

Dear Hiker, welcome to Plateau Point. You've hiked a long ways. Please take a seat in the chair and relax. Look around. Take it all in. What does this moment mean to you?

The pop-up project was the brainchild of Elyssa Shalla, a national park ranger.

"I wanted to put out a typewriter and see what would happen as visitors came upon it," she says.

The typewriter was carried in a backpack on a hike that descended 3,000 vertical feet into the heart of the Grand Canyon.
/ Elyssa Shalla
The typewriter was carried in a backpack on a hike that descended 3,000 vertical feet into the heart of the Grand Canyon.

In three days, Shalla says, hikers left 76 messages, which became the Towers & Type Project.

"oh so many miles / blisters never make [me smile] / really cramps my style."

"to me, this is a geologic pilgrimage and a reminder of what my body can do. for all of this, i am grateful, especially because i get to share it with my dad."

"Hearing the words 'Grand Canyon' and now experiencing it for the first time, I realize that the term 'Grand' falls far [short] of what this place [truly] represents: Perfection."

For Shalla, the notes prove that "parks are really powerful places."

"We need to provide more opportunities to give people the chance to stop and think and feel at the same time and then give them a platform to share their experiences," she says. "That's one of the greatest things we could do in our national parks."

You can see more of the little love letters to the Grand Canyon at Towers & Type Project.

The broadcast version of this story was produced by Natalie Brennan and edited by Selena Simmons-Duffin.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.