Author Q & A
Why the Grand Canyon?
First and foremost, I absolutely love the Grand Canyon — and have, ever since I first visited it when I was 12. I’m not alone either, as it’s one of America’s most visited national parks. But more important, at first glance it appears pretty rugged and inaccessible; which isn’t true at all. Over the years the National Park Service and park concessionaires have made access improvements to the trails, infrastructure and lodging, so it really is a great choice for wheelchair-users and slow walkers. I just wanted to let folks know that everyone can enjoy the Grand Canyon today.
So what’s new in the second edition?
Well, all of the access information has been updated because there have been some access improvements since the first edition was released. For example, numerous access obstacles have been removed along the South Rim, so now there’s a contiguous five-mile accessible trail there. And since a Grand Canyon visit usually entails a road trip, I’ve also included accessible sights and lodging options along Interstate 40 and Rote 66 in this edition.
You mentioned Route 66. Are there any places where you can drive along the original road?
Yes, there are two intact sections near Kingman, and I detailed those routes — complete with accessible stops along the way — in the book.
Does the Grand Canyon even have access for people who can’t walk at all, like people who use a power wheelchair?
Absolutely! There are many accessible trails suitable for power wheelchairs, and accessible lodging options with roll-in showers. You can even take an accessible bus tour of the South Rim or enjoy an accessible airplane flight out over the canyon. Like I said, it really is accessible to everyone.
How long should I plan to stay at the Grand Canyon?
For a South Rim visit, I’d recommend three days minimum. If you’d also like to explore the North Rim, then add another two days to that. And if you want to add in Grand Canyon West, add in another day. You can really make a nice 10 day road trip out of it too, and stop at some of the cool attractions along Interstate 40. I included some sample itineraries on www.BarrierFreeGrandCanyon.com if you’d like specific suggestions.
Which do you prefer, the South Rim or the North Rim?
They both offer spectacular scenery, but I prefer the North Rim because it’s less crowded. That said, there is a reason for the crowds at the South Rim — it’s a bucket list item for sure.
Did you actually look at all the hotels you covered, or did you just interview the managers?
I looked at all the hotels. I’ve found that you just have to do that rather than rely on second-hand information. Plus I always try to measure the beds and tell people where the toilet grab bars are located, as these things are very important to some people.
How long did it take you to do the research for the book?
I’m a frequent Grand Canyon visitor, but this edition of the book required an additional five weeks of in-person research and site visits. That doesn’t count the pre-trip research, interviews and fact checking. It was an ambitious project, but I’m quite pleased with the results.
I know there is a shuttle bus on the South Rim, but I’d just prefer to drive my own car. Is this possible?
Yes it is. Traffic is prohibited on Hermit Road during peak season and on Yaki Point Road all year, but if you are disabled you can get a special permit to drive on those roads.
What’s the best time of year to visit the Grand Canyon?
It depends what part of the park you want to visit. The North Rim is only open from May 15 to October 15, so a winter visit is out of the question. I prefer to skip the peak summer season, so I like to visit the park after Labor Day, but before the North Rim road closes for the year.
Grand Canyon West and Peach Springs are not part of Grand Canyon National Park, so why did you include them in the book?
Although Grand Canyon West and Peach Springs sit on tribal land, they both offer magnificent views of the Grand Canyon. The Skywalk at Grand Canyon West offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to look down on the canyon through a glass floor; while Peach Springs is the gateway to the only driving route to the bottom of the canyon. I just felt they both needed to be included in the book.
I see you covered the Grand Canyon Railway. I don’t have much time, but I do want to see the Grand Canyon, so can I do that trip in a day?
Certainly. The train leaves the Williams Depot at 9:30 A.M. and arrives at the South Rim just before noon. The return train departs for Williams at 3:30 P.M., so you have several hours to enjoy the South Rim.
There are a lot of restaurants on the South Rim. What is your favorite, and why?
My favorite is the Arizona Room, because it offers a sweeping canyon view. Their green chile tamales are one of my favorite Grand Canyon meals.
What is your favorite thing to see or do in the Grand Canyon?
I love to sit on the sun porch at the North Rim Lodge and just enjoy the canyon view. It’s a great place to watch the sunset.
What’s next for you? Do you have any more books in the works?
I’m always rechecking access information for all of my national park books, but currently I’m working on Barrier-Free Travel; National Park Lodges for Wheelers and Slow Walkers, which will include accessible national park properties on the US mainland. It’s set to be released in November 2019.