Author Q&As

Why did you group Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks together?
Yosemite is very popular, but even though Kings Canyon and Sequoia are only about a four-hour drive from Yosemite Valley, they are often overlooked by visitors. Plus the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway provides a lovely diversion while traveling between the two areas. Seriously, it’s a shame to miss out on Sequoia’s Giant Forest and Kings Canyon’s rugged granite walls, so I encourage everyone to budget enough time to visit all three parks.
How long did it take you to research the book?
We spent the bulk of Fall 2016 on-site visiting all three parks, but that had to be supplemented with additional day trips to the parks in 2017. It really was an intensive research project, as we also visited lodgings and attractions in the gateway communities.
How did you pick out the properties that you included in the book?
First and foremost, I included all the in-park lodging options. Then I turned to properties in the gateway communities, because the in-park properties tend to sell out quickly. I visited every property that I included, and spent a good deal of time documenting the access features of the accessible rooms. I included a wide variety of accessible properties, from rustic cabins and spacious mountain homes to chain properties, small inns and even a tent cabin or two. The properties have varying degrees of access, as my readers have varying degrees of mobility; but all of the included properties have a management team that is committed to access. There were a few properties that I considered in the beginning, but because of a lack of access or a poor management attitude regarding access, were not included in this book.
I know you said that you live in the area, so do you have a favorite thing to do in Yosemite? Something that you like to do over and over?
I absolutely love driving over to the park for a relaxing Sunday brunch at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Truth be told, it’ll always be the Ahwahnee to me, and they really put out a great spread on Sundays. And if I’m on a more limited budget, I pack a picnic lunch and head over to the Cathedral Beach Picnic Area, and then I take a short walk to Lower Yosemite Fall after lunch. I truly enjoy all the falls in the park, and I try to visit them at different times of the year.
I’m planning a trip to San Francisco. Do you think a trip to Yosemite is doable? How long should I stay?
My mother-in-law was famous for her one-day Yosemite tours for visiting relatives; however I really think that’s pushing the envelope a bit. It’s about a four-hour drive to Yosemite Valley from San Francisco – and that’s without traffic delays — so you will be in a bus or car for at least eight hours if you take a day trip. That leaves precious little time to explore the wonders of Yosemite, which is the whole purpose of your visit. I think Yosemite is certainly doable as an add-on from San Francisco, but it’s best to spend three or four days in the park to fully enjoy the experience.
I’ve really not heard much about Kings Canyon National Park. Tell ­­­me why I should add it to my bucket list.
Kings Canyon National Park is like the forgotten stepchild – everyone knows it’s there but most folks entirely overlook it. Truth be told, that’s reason enough for adding it to your bucket list, as it’s refreshingly devoid of the tourist crowds that are present in many other areas of the parks. Although Grant Grove is certainly worth a stop, I highly recommend setting out on your own to explore the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, between Grant Grove and Cedar Grove, as it’s a more remote — yet still accessible — section of the park. It’s a beautiful drive, with many pullouts along the way, where you can get an up-close-and-personal look at the massive granite canyon framed by the turbulent Kings River. And once you reach Cedar Grove, explore the trails at Zumwalt Meadows and Roaring River Falls. Pack along a picnic lunch and make a day of it.
Did you encounter any problems while you were researching this book? I know the weather in California has been very wet this year, so did that effect you at all?
Well Mother Nature definitely threw a monkey wrench into our plans this year; but for the most part we were able to reschedule visits when it poured down rain. That’s one advantage of living in the area. On the plus side, the added precipitation made for a great show at Yosemite Falls, at a time when it would normally be dry. Unfortunately the weather did delay the project at Mariposa Grove, which was suppose to be completed in late Spring 2017. It’s estimated that it will now be completed sometime in the fall. I plan to visit as soon as things are up and running, and I will post a report on www.barrierfreeyosemite.com afterwards. Again, it’s one of the advantages of living in the area!
I don’t like crowds, especially in natural settings. Can you give me some ideas of how I can avoid them in Yosemite, and still have an accessible vacation?
Summer time — especially holidays and weekends — is unbearably crowded in Yosemite Valley. My advice would be to plan a visit in late spring or fall when there are fewer visitors. That said, the valley is still the most visited place, so take a day or two and explore Tioga Road or enjoy the scenic drive to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. And if you want to dodge the crowds even more, spend the night at Evergreen Lodge or Rush Creek Lodge, located outside of the park near the Big Oak Flat Entrance. Both properties have a nice selection of accessible rooms.
There have been a lot of access improvements in the parks over the years. Does one project really stand out in your mind?
Absolutely. The 2005 access upgrades to the trail to Lower Yosemite Fall tops my list, because it was a major improvement. Previously most of the trail was doable, but the last part was steep and slippery, and darn near impossible for wheelers and slow walkers without some major assistance. Now just about everybody can make it to the base of Lower Yosemite Fall, thanks to the accessible trail on the west side.
Do you have a favorite park out of the three?
How do you pick a favorite child? I like all three parks for different reasons. I like Yosemite because of my fond childhood memories there, Sequoia for the beautiful Giant Forest, and Kings Canyon for the magnificent granite canyon lined by the roaring Kings River.
So what’s next for you? Are you working on another national park book?
Of course! I’m working on a book on Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton for wheelers and slow walkers, which will be out in early Summer 2018. Additionally, I’ll be releasing a second edition of my Olympic and Mt. Rainier title in 2018, which will also include North Cascades National Park.