Campfire Stories ~ When All The World Was Wild

Campfire Stories ~ When All The World Was Wild

In 2016 the National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary. This ingenious notion of preserving wild and scenic places was described in 1983 by the novelist Wallace Stegner. “The National Parks are the best idea we ever had,” he wrote.” Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” 

Advocated by the great environmentalist John Muir our system of national parks and monuments designated space for the long-term protection of nature as well as our national heritage. For a century now through the interpretation of our great historic legacy the traditions of our national parks have been passed down from one generation to the next, like sacred wisdom in the time honored tradition of storytelling.

For three months during the centennial summer of 2016 David and Ilyssa Kyu traveled across our country to visit several of the most iconic national parks. Inspired by camping excursions closer to home these graphic designers from Philadelphia ventured out to find others in their tribe of enthusiasts to share their tales of the wild. From the rocky beaches of Acadia National Park in Maine to the granite cliffs of Yosemite Valley in California they drove thousands of miles in search of narratives that profoundly express our collective passion for the majestic beauty of wilderness. And in their newly release book, called Campfire Stories, the Kyus share the wonders of nature through the most ancient of tribal interactions.

Give a listen to an interview with Dave & Ilyssa

on the Joy Trip Project Podcast!


As members of the millennial generation Dave and Ilyssa use this classic storytelling genre to preserve the traditions of the past for the benefit of the future. With the resurgence of spoken word presentations at TED Talks, poetry slams and hip hop revivals across the country their initiative shines a glaring spotlight on locals and subject matter that too often go overlooked in a population of American young people who are increasingly more urban and perhaps less connected to the natural world. These stories of outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship are particularly important to share among those emerging youth whose experience as the children of recent immigrants or ethnic minorities with family customs and cultural heritage that don’t often include overnight campouts or backpacking trips. Using the power of story the Kyus aim to make a lasting connection between this new generation of young people and the relevance of spending time in the outdoors.

As humanity continually encroaches upon the natural environment with the expansion of our cities and the extraction of non-renewable resources, oil, gas and minerals the outdoors we love is at risk. As we become more urbanized and our priorities shift to favor the luxuries of our civilization we often forget the virtues of the wilderness from whence we came. As surely as we need fresh air, clear water, wholesome food and open space to roam it is through campfire stories, told in the ways of our ancestors in the spirit of tribal unity, that we might remember and preserve not just the land but the traditions that made the lives we enjoy today possible.

On a classic journey of discovery David and Ilyssa Kyu traveled in search of stories. In addition to stops in Acadia and Yosemite they ventured into the national parks at Yellowstone, the Great Smokey Mountains, the Rocky Mountains and Zion. They met hundreds of people and engaged their imaginations through a mutual love of nature that transcends race or religion, culture or creed. Calling back to the shared history of life when all the world was wild they have gathered the tribe together to share again the warmth of our common humanity in these campfire stories.