July 31st, 11:22pm

To kick off our time in Yellowstone National Park, we sat down with Yellowstone Association’s Ken Voorhis, Director of Education, and Neil Mathieu, Director of Retail. Ken almost seemed like an old friend - we were first introduced via the Great Smoky Mountains Association, the very first park we visited on this trip and where Ken worked (with the Great Smoky Mountains Institute) for 29 years! 

The Yellowstone Association supports the park through sale of educational materials in park stores and nearby towns, as well as in-depth classes and programs provided through the Yellowstone Association Institute. Topics range from wolf management and ecology, to capturing the colors of Old Faithful. We were fortunate to attend an evening campfire of ‘Lakota Creation Stories: The Animals of Yellowstone,’ which we’re excited to share more about in a later post! 

 Ken spoke of the significance of this place, not only for its ability to get to untrammeled wild places fairly quickly, but for the founding history. Here is not just the first National Park in the country, but in the whole world. He shares that the park is an amazing demonstration of the inherent conflict in the motto, “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People” - a phrase that constantly balances preservation and public use in the mission of the Park Service. Having lived here 3 years now, Ken also spoke of the magnificent Yellowstone winters. 

While midday August temperatures hover in the mid-70’s (a nice change for us), Yellowstone in winter can get as cold as 0º to 20º F, dipping below zero at night and in higher elevations. Winter also brings the absence of large crowds. Ken describes it as the time you really get to know and learn about the community here — the personality of Yellowstone: an eclectic, tight-knit group of people from all walks of life. 

Our conversation with Ken and Neil also gave us insight into the kinds of stories visitors are seeking in the bookstores, as well as some types of stories they wished to tell. With their insight and community connections, we’re ready to take on that challenge of capturing the stories of Yellowstone National Park!