Author Q & A
Why Washington National Parks? What's so special about them?
Well they certainly each offer their own rugged beauty, and they are close enough together to do in one trip; but the driving force behind this book was the glut of misinformation out there regarding access in these parks. Misinformation is worse than no information at all, so I decided it was time to let folks know what exactly was out there access wise. I discovered a lot of trails that were rated as "accessible with assistance" really had varying degrees of access, so I did what I always do - I described the access so folks can decide if they will or won't work for them. After all, "accessible with assistance" is a very ambiguous term.
Isn't this really the second edition of this title?
Not exactly. My previous title only included Washington's National Parks, and was titled as such. This book also includes North Cascades; hence the new "Washington National Parks" title.
So why didn't you include North Cascades National Park in your previous title?
Unfortunately I listened to too many nay-sayers who told me that there was nothing for my readers up there. And when I subsequently discovered that just wasn't true, I had to correct the omission. I thought the easiest way to do that was to craft a inclusive book of all of Washington's national parks.
North Cascades National Park is largely backcountry. Are there really accessible things to do there? What about lodging?
Yes, there is a large backcountry area of the park, but I also found a lot of accessible trails along State Highway 20, especially near Newhalem. It's amazing what's out there, as it's not really publicized. Unfortunately there are no hotels in the national park, but I did highlight a nice accessible inn nearby.
Mount Rainer seems pretty rugged too. Is it really a good choice for wheelchair-users?
Mount Rainier is over 14,000 feet high and some 10,000 climbers attempt to summit it every year; but the great thing is, you can also enjoy its beauty from afar. There's a great view of the mountain from the end of the accessible Kautz Creek Trail, and you can also get a good view of it from the Visitor Center at Sunrise - they even have an accessible scope trained on the mountain. So yes, even though it is pretty rugged, there are still lots of offerings for wheelchair-users and slow walkers.
I've heard that access is improving in the near future in Olympic National Park. Is that true?
Absolutely. When the upgrades to the Spruce Railroad Trail are completed in 2019, it will effectively triple the length of accessible trail offerings in Olympic National Park.
Did you encounter any problems while researching these parks for the book?
Unfortunately yes. Because of the misinformation out there I had a lot of false leads, which made my site visits all that more time consuming. I put a lot of time in on my research and I trekked down every possible trail to see if it might be suitable for my readers. It was a lot of work, but on the plus side, the weather was good and I discovered some absolutely beautiful places.
How would you rate the access in these parks compared with that of the Grand Canyon?
Well that's like comparing apples to oranges. The Grand Canyon is one of America's most visited national parks, while Washington's national parks are more remote. There are more accessible facilities in the Grand Canyon, but on the other hand there are more people competing for them. In Washington I strolled through peaceful rainforests, and lingered at scenic overlooks that were virtually deserted; and that's something I just can't do in the Grand Canyon. On the other hand, there's no Skywalk in Washington. If you just look at the accessible trails, facilities and lodges, the Grand Canyon certainly has more; however if you look at the remoteness and peaceful quality of the those features, then the Washington parks definitely win.
Did you actually look at all the hotels you covered, or did you just interview the managers?
I inspected each and every property that I covered. I never rely on second-hand information in any of my work, and although it takes a bit more effort, I feel it's worth it.
Are there hotels with roll in showers in the parks?
Absolutely - both Olympic and Mount Rainier have accessible rooms with roll-in showers. North Cascades has no lodging in the park, but I did cover a nearby inn with a roll-in shower.
Why did you also include lodges that were outside of the parks?
Because these parks are so remote, I wanted to give my readers more choices. After all, most of the lodging offerings in the parks only have a few accessible rooms. But it's not like I covered lodging options in Seattle - truly the properties that I selected are close to the parks, and very convenient for day visits.
What is your favorite thing to see or do in these parks?
I really love the diversity in all of the parks, but if I have to pick one favorite place it's got to be Lake Crescent. The accessible room at the lodge is near the lakeshore and it's pleasant to sit on the back porch and enjoy the view. There is also a nice accessible trail nearby, that winds through the forest and out along the shore. Plus there is a cool glassed-in porch in the main lodge that's the perfect place to enjoy the sunset with a glass of wine.
What's the next title in your Barrier-Free Travel series?
Next up is Barrier-Free Travel; Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. It will be released in late spring 2018. www.barrierfreeyellowstone.com