Author Q & A

With almost 60 national parks to pick from, why did you choose these national parks for the book?
There were several reasons for my choice. First off, since the parks are relatively close together, you can visit them all on a week-long vacation. Second, there’s such of variety of scenery between the parks, from canyons and gorges to hoodoos, arches and even sand dunes. Third, because over the years access has greatly improved at all the parks. And finally, because they are just some of my favorites.
How long did it take you to research the book?
I’ve visited and written about all the parks over the years, so I already had a good knowledge about access at the parks. That said, I rented a house in Utah and Charles and I spent a month revisiting all the parks and updating my access information. I also spent a good chunk of time on my pre-trip research, in order to make the most of my time in Utah.
Did you run into any problems or encounter any obstacles on your research trip?
Well we dodged a flash flood, a rock slide and a wildfire, so I’d say we made out pretty well. We did have to keep an eye on the weather though, as we didn’t want to get caught in low lying areas during heavy rain storms. But the ranger stations and visitor centers did a great job of posting the weather and letting folks know about the potential for flash floods.
Did you actually visit all the hotels and lodges you included in the book?
Absolutely. I don’t write about accessible properties that I haven’t personally inspected, as I don’t think it’s a good idea to pass on second hand information. Over the years, there have been a number of times when accessible rooms didn’t exactly live up to their descriptions. We inspected and photographed over 100 accessible rooms for this book alone.
How did you decide to include the properties you did? Are there other properties that you didn’t include, and if so why?
Well I started with the in-park properties and then added properties in nearby communities. I tried to include lodgings in a variety of price ranges. There were a few properties that I declined to cover because they had access obstacles, such as steps up to the lobby or inadequate pathway access in any of the rooms. And unfortunately there were a few that got the boot because the managers just had a really poor attitude about my readers. But for the most part, the employees were very welcoming to guests with disabilities.
The lodges in Zion and Bryce are pretty old. Are they really wheelchair-accessible?
Yes, they are. Even though they are historic properties, access upgrades have been added over the years. Both properties have a variety of accessible rooms, including very nice rooms with roll-in showers.
What’s the best time of year to visit these parks?
I’ve visited them in all four seasons and I have to say that my least favorite time to visit them is in the summer. During that time they are very crowded, and it’s also the rainy season. I prefer fall, after Labor Day. The weather is good, and as you near the end of the month you’ll see fewer and fewer people at the parks. Generally speaking I try and avoid holidays and weekends whenever possible.
How many days should I allot to see all of the parks?
With adequate planning you can see them all in a week, but if you’d prefer a more leisurely pace then I’d allow for 10 days. And if you only have a day, pick one park and enjoy it. I’ve posted some sample itineraries on this website to give you some ideas of how to schedule your time.
Do people with a disability get a discount on admission to these parks? If so, what do you need to qualify for the discount?
Yes. US residents with a permanent disability can get an America the Beautiful Access Pass. This lifetime pass is good for admission to all national parks and it also gives the bearer a 50% discount on campsites and boat launch fees. You can get one at any national park entrance by providing proof of disability and residency.
Did you run into any surprises — in terms of access — when you visited the parks?
Even though I’ve visited the parks many time and did a lot of pre-trip research, I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at Arches National Park, and saw that they were making access upgrades to the half-mile trail out to Double Arch.
If you had to pick just one park to visit, which one would it be and why?
Well, that’s like trying to pick your favorite child – you love them all but for different reasons. If I had to pick just one though I’d go with Bryce Canyon National Park, as the spire-like hoodoos simply mesmerize me. And they are absolutely gorgeous when they are covered with a dusting of snow.
What was your favorite accessible trail?
Again, it’s hard to single out just one, but I’ll go with the Pa’rus Trail in Zion National Park. This 1.8-mile paved level walkway follows the Virgin River, and runs from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to Canyon Junction. There are some great views of The Watchman from along the trail, which crosses over the river several times. It’s also a great place for sunset photos.
I try to eat healthy, so what are your suggestions for food in the parks?
National Park food is a far cry from what it was 10 years ago. In 2011 the National Park Service (NPS) launched there Healthy Parks Healthy People program, which included offering healthy selections in their restaurants. Today park concessionaires join the NPS in their commitment to this program. For example the restaurant at The Lodge at Bryce Canyon has a wonderful soup and salad bar and offers vegetarian, low-fat and gluten-free menu options; while the Red Rock Grill at Zion Lodge has a number of vegetarian selections and serves healthy proteins such as Atlantic Salmon. I tend to eat on the healthy side, and I had no problem finding something I could eat on either menu.
What’s next for you? Are you planning to do more national park books?
My next national park book with cover three parks near and dear to my heart – Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia. I grew up in the Sierras, and I still have a home there today, so I’m really looking forward to researching that book. I’ll do the bulk of that research in the Fall of 2016, and the book should be out sometime in 2017. But before I do that I’m going to be writing about my favorite Florida state parks. That book should be out in early 2016.