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Green Valley Spa & Tennis Resort, Utah


It's 6 a.m. on my first full day at Green Valley Spa & Resort and I am among 32 groggy hikers sipping herbal tea and filling fanny packs with water bottles, fruit and sunscreen. By 6:15 we're out the driveway, over the curb and into the desert. Led by six enthusiastic guides strung out along the trail, we hike up a long incline for several miles through chaparral and silver sage terrain, splintering into smaller groups according to ability. Reaching a bluff, we stop to look back at technicolor cliffs and in the distance the town of St. George with its imposing Mormon temple.

Throughout the week we walk in nearby state parks, scramble among sandstone canyons and stop at Anasazi Caves etched with 1,000 year-old petroglyphs. The most challenging trek, one of the finest in the West, is an hour away in Zion National Park. It is a must for the mountain goats among us.

Our explorations of the trails usually end at 8:30 a.m. By 10 those who have signed up for tennis improve their game with the help of several pros on 15 outdoor and four indoor courts. Others take a water aerobics class, swim laps in an Olympic-sized pool, loll in the sun or head over to the spa building to work out on gym equipment in the main exercise room. Body stretching, muscle-toning, tummy-firming and pulse-pounding classes are scheduled throughout the day. Attendance is optional.

Between the workouts come the rewards—three massages, a facial and reflexology. A la carte treatments include a mud pack, pearl body rub, energy balancing and medicine wrap administered by a Native American woman, Eagle Moon.

Each day the lighting, flowers, aromas, music and scented waters are changed to reflect a new spiritual mood. On Red Day, roses fill the building, the candles and the kitchen staff's aprons are red and water in the relaxation center is flavored with geraniums and cinnamon. And so on during the week: orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

When my first massage falls on Red Day, I am told that the color "enlivens the senses and turns the heart toward magical moments of delight." Even if you do not believe in New Age thinking, the decorative effect is striking.

An attendant leads me to a shadowy jacuzzi room where she instructs me to sponge off with a mitt soaked in honey milk, then to slip into the warm, foaming bath filled with aromatic oils, mineral salts and rose petals. Fifteen minutes later, the bubble jets turn off and I'm led to a mind-melting massage. This is definitely the taste of Nirvana!

With its picture-perfect view, brightly painted cupboards, Southwestern paintings and open kitchen, the dining room feels clubby and camaraderie grows. We sit around communal tables in sweats (a great social leveler) discussing food, tennis serves, speed walking, shrinks, divorces and plastic surgery. My new acquaintances are a CEO who abandons his cellular phone after two days, a pencil-thin and stressed-out flight attendant, a Wall Street investor, a divorcee from Texas in pursuit of a beautiful body and a chatty Alabama couple.

Green Valley's kitchen is as good as its treatments. For breakfast we are served yogurt and peach crepes or whole wheat waffles with hot berry syrup. Lunches feature salads bursting with color and non-Spartan dinner entrees might be baked salmon with dill sauce or Cajun chicken. Frozen banana sundaes and papaya cakes with rum sauce are on the dessert menu. The food, virtually prepared without salt, sugar or fat, is flavored with fruit juices and spa-grown herbs. On this 1400 calories a day program and occasional snacks of mini-muffins and strawberries, the average guest loses three to five pounds during a one-week stay.

After dinner we congregate in the main living room before heading off to the evening lectures—Native American lore, Red Rock adventures, astrology and nutrition. On a free night Ralph Lauren's outlet, a ten-minute taxi ride away, beckons. The week ends with a rousing line dancing lesson and last minute forays to the spa shop to buy recipe cards, tapes and bath products.

After a week at Green Valley Spa you return home refreshed and rejuvenated. Even though that refreshing feeling may only last for a few months in real time, I know exactly where to go to feel that natural high again.

Green Valley Spa & Tennis Resort, 1515 West Canyon Drive, St. George, Utah 84770. Tel. 800-237-1068. A seven-day stay is $2350 with private room and bath and shared living room in a two-bedroom condominium. Five body treatments, exercise classes, tennis, extended hikes, meals, snacks, tax and gratuities are included. www.greenvalleyspa.com

—Rose Hartman

Spring 1996