Author Q & A
Why a book on National Park lodges?
A national park road trip around the US is at the top of many a bucket list. Not only does this book let folks know what each park has as far as wheelchair-accessible lodging is concerned, but I also consider it a road trip idea book. Many of our Western national parks are within a days drive of each other, so it’s entirely possible to put together a great road trip route, and stay at the accessible national park lodges along the way.
Why didn’t you include the parks in Alaska and Hawaii?
Again because of the road trip theme, and it’s pretty hard to drive to Hawaii. And although you can drive to Alaska from the mainland US, it is quite a trek. And once you get there only a few the national parks are actually accessible by vehicle.
Can you give me an example of a national park road trip itinerary?
Certainly. One of my favorites is to combine Glacier National Park with Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. There’s really a lot to see and do in the area. I have some wheelchair-accessible itinerary suggestions for those parks at barrierfreeyellowstone.com/suggested-itineraries.
Did you also include information about accessible things to do in the national parks, along with the lodging information?
Certainly. Besides the access details and lots of photos of the accessible lodge rooms, I also included a good overview of the accessible trails and sights in each park. Plus I also have a “Don’t Miss This” and an “Insider Tip” section in each chapter. It’s a pretty comprehensive title.
Did you visit each property that you covered?
Absolutely. I learned a long time ago that if you cover accessible travel you have to do site visits in order to accurately represent the accessibility. A phone call just won’t do, as you may be talking to someone who has never visited the site. And don’t even get me started about the glut of incorrect access information on the internet. In many cases I visited the parks more than once – some even five to six times.
How long did the research take you?
I would say I had a good editorial design about five years ago, so it took about four years of solid research. Some of the parks have limited operating seasons, and the weather was a factor in many cases. And like I said, many of the parks required a return visit.
Did you run into any problems during your research?
Well of course dealing with Mother Nature is always a challenge, and we had no shortage of weather issues – especially snow. I live in the Sierras, so I’m used to snow, but there’s not much you can do when the roads close. And although it’s not really an access problem – it’s a good thing – some properties upgraded their accessible rooms during my research period, so a return visit was necessary. The wildlife was pretty unpredictable too – I can’t even recall how many bison jams caused us delays in Yellowstone!
You mention the park concessionaires in the book. Who are they and why is it important for visitors to know about them?
Concessionaires are hospitality companies that contract with the National Park Service to operate the lodges and other concessions in the park. They are also responsible for maintenance and upgrades. There are also many third-party booking sites for national park lodges, and because of marketing efforts they may come up before the concessionaires in an internet search. It’s important to deal directly with the concessionaires, as you will get first-hand access information from them, and they also offer the best prices. Plus when you book with a concessionaire, they will block the accessible room for you, which isn’t always the case with third-party booking sites. There is a list of all the National Park Concessionaires in my National Park Primer for Seniors, Wheelchair-Users and Slow Walkers at emerginghorizons.com/national-park-primer-for-seniors-wheelchair-users-and-slow-walkers/.
What exactly is a “wheelchair-accessible” room?
That’s a really good question. If you ask that question to 100 different people you’ll probably get 100 different answers – as they’ll usually cite the features they have at home and absolutely need at a lodge. That said, you can have two accessible rooms in the same property and one can have a tub-shower combination and one could have a roll-in shower. And they are both considered accessible. That’s why I don’t just say it’s an accessible room, but instead I describe the the access features. I also note bed height and what side of the toilet the grab bars are located, as these issues are not included in the access regulations but they are important to some people.
Do you have a favorite National Park lodge?
I have a lot of favorites, but the one at the top of my list is Zion Lodge. More specifically, the historic – and accessible – cabin that’s pictured on the cover of my book. Not only does it have great access with a ramped entry and a roll-in shower; but it’s also located at the far end of the lodge, and away from all the hustle and bustle. The front porch looks out on the beautiful red rocks, and it’s the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset.
So, what’s your next project?
Well, my next title Barrier Free Travel; Death Valley National Park for Wheelers and Slow Walkers will be released this August – just in time for the fall and winter travel season. I’m also working on a second edition for my popular Barrier-Free Travel; Utah National Parks for Wheelers and Slow Walkers title, which should be released in 2021.