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Green Valley Spa Update

Hiking in Utah 's Hills

For the van trip between the Las Vegas airport and St. George, Utah, I brought a pile of unread "New Yorkers." After passing the signature sites-- the Eiffel Tower, the Manhattan Skyline and the Pyramid of the Sphinx--along the Vegas Strip, Interstate 15 turns dusty and monotonous.

Zion National Park

At the end of a late spring afternoon it was still bright enough to read. But, abruptly and with no warning dusk fell like a curtain. I raised my eyes to find that near vertical red-brown rocks were reaching skyward on both sides of the highway. We were cruising through the Virgin River Gorge, the canyon where the mountains are the highest on the 1-15 artery.

By the time we reached Green Valley Spa the night was dark and silent. It couldn't have been more than 9:00 . “Where is everyone?” I inquired of Alane, who greeted me at the door of the Mission Building, a library and computer center, and looked after me until I was settled in my 1500-square-foot quarters in Coyote Inn.

“They're all asleep,” she answered of the 20 or so guests in residence.“ They've put in a long and tiring day.” And so I left a wake-up call for 7:00, opened my gift package of beauty products (a new one would arrive daily) got ready for bed and climbed into the four-poster. A short story about hope (a different one would be distributed nightly) was propped on the pillows (three different sizes from which to choose) along with G.V. Bear (mine to keep). A message on the tag said, “Sometimes all we need is a hug from a friend.”

Coyote Inn

The days at Green Valley begin with breakfast at 6:45. By 7:45, after an optional 15-minute session of tai chi, guests and guides are in the van to travel to the day's main activity and the spa's raison d'etre, hiking. The primary reason I chose the spa is that hiking is my favorite way to exercise. The starting point for each of three levels--trail, fitness and strenuous--is miles off campus in foothills and state and national parks. En route we passed distinctive red stucco buildings much like the adobe houses built by the Native American people and whose designs blended with the surroundings.

An interactive computer in the Grand Hall shows photographs of the terrain surrounding each daily hike and includes descriptions of the conditions you can expect to encounter. You learn whether you will be trekking on sandstone, limestone, lava, in the forest, on significant sand, loose rock, in the high, mid or low desert and whether you will need to scramble or scrooch. The degree of difficulty, rated two through nine, depends on the terrain and is recorded on the screen. In a given week approximately 15 different locales with elevations ranging from 2,500 to 4,600 feet are listed. The routes of hikes with names like Moki Madness and Dutchman's Draw change from time to time.

Trail Hike

The Green Valley Challenge and the more difficult Green Valley Adventure include several hours of strenuous activity in the Green Basin desert: rock climbing, rappelling and flying through the air on a zip line.

On day one in State Park Snow Canyon we circled a four-mile trail of mostly sand. Guests seem to know their limits and only one person who came along to keep her sister company dropped out of my group. The resplendent red foothills whose color comes from iron ore had been formed millions of years ago from petrified sand. Sam, our guide, explained that the white rocks had no iron in them and that the black ones took their hue from lava. Even in the driest of spots, wild flowers take root and grow. An exception is rhubarb, which had originally been planted by Native Americans. As we breathed the pristine mountain air we caught the scent of sage brush, the park's ubiquitous shrub.

We returned from our outing in time for 11:00 aquacise in one of four pools. Marium Kroff, the energetic instructor, gauged the ability of each participant from those who couldn't even doggy paddle to the strongest swimmers and she offered suggestions to the ones who fell off the curve. The use of equipment, tubing and bar bells, promoted under the water resistance and bolstered the benefits of this workout.

Among the activities I favored, stretch and basic yoga, tied for second place with acquacise.


What serendipity! I was able to schedule my favorites every day and even slipped in meditation. But with four treatments in three days I had to miss pilates, body conditioning, absolute abs and all the other rotating classes that are offered hourly.

Alan Coombs, the owner, believes that golf is an important part of corporate life and women should learn to play the game. All levels of lessons are offered at the on-site center. Green Valley has an affiliation with the Vic Braden Tennis Camp and as part of the program its instructors teach tennis to beginners and advanced beginners.

Once a week on Thursdays the van takes off for Zion National Park, about one- and one-half hours away. After passing through Springdale we reached the south entrance sandwiched between the Visitor's Center and Museum. Rosy cliffs shouldered their way toward the middle of a narrow valley and extended higher and higher overhead until they soared one-half mile up. We had arrived at Zion Canyon, the heart of the park. We set off alone or in groups of twos or threes to explore the mysteries of the park on paths of our own choosing. A shuttle bus making eight stops takes about 40 minutes to reach Temple of Sinawava at the end of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Sandstone towers--Court of the Patriarchs, the Watchman, and Great White Throne--are visible from the bus windows and dwarf the climbers attempting to scale them. Trails are accessible from every drop-off point and fall into easy, moderately strenuous and strenuous categories.

I got off at Sinawava to fast tread the paved Riverside Walk, which meanders through forested glens following the Virgin River upstream into high-walled Zion Canyon Narrows. Along the path were trailside exhibits, waterfalls gushing through mossy crevices to form showers and whirlpools and an arch jutting out from the face of a cliff. Nature had worked its magic in this wilderness. Recognizing the miracle created by rock, water, sky and vegetation, the first white settlers embraced the name Zion, the Promised Land.

Cardio Boxing

Our lunches had been stowed in the van so that we might eat on the return trip. They were individually packed to accommodate each guest's personal meal plan. A second reason I selected Green Valley is that as far as anyone knows it is the only spa serving the South Beach Diet. Tadd Gunther, one of the chefs lost 32 pounds in six weeks on the program and Jacki Pearson, a co-chef, took off 60 pounds in a year. In response to guest requests for no-carb meals the South Beach Diet was implemented on April 1.The regular menu is still in place. I thought the food was very good; two entrée choices were available at dinner and there was always dessert. The philosophy about food is liberal.

Alan Coombs said, “There are lots of good snacks around because we don't want people to feel hungry. On a weight loss program we want them to feel a level of comfort. Losing weight is equated with living beautifully.”

Living beautifully is the key to the design in the treatment center. Each day the sensory experience in the center changes as new music, flowers and aromas are introduced. The list of beauty services is long with several that I had not heard of previously--back facial, floatation repatterning and energy flow rebalancing. I stuck with variations on massage--total reflexology, shiatsu, neural-muscular therapy and Rapunzel's secret hot oil treatment. For the latter a table was moved into the private spa garden created from trellises covered with cascading flowers and vines. I rested in this fragrant, breezy arbor while an aesthetician worked on my scalp, neck, shoulders and feet.

Coombs and his wife, Carole, started the business in 1986 and throughout the years put in many improvements until Green Valley evolved into a “luxury adventure spa.” It is the only destination spa in the U.S. with AAA four-diamond accommodations. The rating is limited to the Coyote Inn section where every southwestern-style adobe house is a deluxe suite with a private courtyard and very spacious living and dining room, kitchen, bedroom with two sinks and dressing/closet areas. The commode, shower and whirlpool tub are each in separate alcoves. The color scheme is restful white, off-white and beige. A rainbow fell through the skylight and across my tile floor. It duplicated the shades in a painted wooden chair and Navaho rug and added a lively spurt to the muted palette.

Rapunzel's Secret Hot Oil Treatment

One of Green Valley 's promotional pieces states, “10,000 roses, just 45 noses,” the maximum number of guests the spa can accommodate. In May the roses were in full blossom, some of them as tall as 10 feet and with flowers as much as six inches in diameter. I asked head horticulturalist, Dan Olsen, about the gardens and he told me that the thousands of roses grow on 4,000 plants. Honeysuckle, oleander, mimosa, plum, cypress, canopy and weeping willow trees cover the grounds. You could be staying in the middle of an arboretum.

Small amenities added to the enjoyment of my stay: an advance phone call to my home to schedule beauty treatments; spa clothes that were good quality, attractive and fit well; a pre-paid phone card; one complimentary laundry service; a bone density test as part of a microfit assessment; and a comprehensive metabolic profile.

“Take the spa home with you,” I am often told when leaving a facility after some high-energy R & R. Without a gym membership, private trainer and chef, it is a daunting task. This time, along with another gift, a CD, I felt as though I had put the spa in my luggage. I take hour-long walks almost daily on Manhattan 's streets, continue to eat the easy-to-prepare South Beach Diet and stretch while listening to music, courtesy of Green Valley .

Green Valley Spa, 1871 West Canyon View Drive , St. George , UT 84770 . Tel. 800-237-1068 .


Summer, 2004