by Alison McFarlane
There I was — alone in the desert with the Stones.
When my son announced he wouldn’t spend his college spring break at home, I was filled with unseemly glee at the prospect of a solo season-opener. Yearning for wicked adventure without much time, Google quivered to a full stop at Red Mountain Resort and Spa end-of-winter specials. I threw my bike in the car, and headed south, sight unseen, just five iTunes hours from Salt Lake City straight down Interstate 15.
Red Mountain Resort and Spa is heaven-plunked in the middle of the windswept, fiery, red rock landscape of Southern Utah. Undetectable on approach, and ten minutes west of the quintessential tourist town St. George, Utah. Adobe casitas pepper the vast grounds including lodging, indoor pool, activity and health and fitness center, restaurant and conference center, retail outfitter shop, and an out-of- this-world spa. Lodgings are identified by animal name (“rabbit” dwelling sits next to “turtle” but far from “hummingbird”) and tuck like ancient Anasazi cliff dwellings into a landscape drama of immense sandstone cliffs, giant rock stars and bulging boulders.
Titled “A Top Destination” by Fodor’s Choice, “camp” at Red Mountain Resort centers around inspiration, health and fitness and adventure. And it gives you choices- mix and match your activities. Daylight will keep a guest hopping like the ever-present desert jack rabbits from yoga, pilates, tai-chi on the rocks and fitness lectures and classes, or dominating one of the sturdy, inviting hammocks around the landscaped grounds. Daily morning hikes begin at 8 a.m. to revel in cooler temperatures and nearby canyon breezes. Hikes vary from “a Wal-Mart saunter,” (one retired archeologist guide’s description) to cliff climbing at nearly breakneck pace. Beware, or at least be prepared, for the daily challenge hike.
Excursions to nearby Zion or Bryce Canyon National Parks satisfy panorama lovers looking for photo ops — or new climbing trails in Technicolor-classic spaghetti Western movie locations. Or join an uber-brave group bound for Snow Canyon State Park for an introduction to volcanic boulders, desert solitude and mountain biking (bikes provided).
Returning to the spa at day’s end, sated adventurers soak in refreshing indoor or outdoor pools, or spill stories with other campers in one of three whirlpool/ hot tubs (wildlife sighting: sunbathing desert lizards alongside the shrubs near the hot tub. Harmless but surprising).
Red Mountain’s Canyon Breeze dining room — named among the Top Spa Cuisine in Destination Spas by Conde Nast Traveler — offers peaceful solo dining or a group table every evening. Subdued earth-baked orange, red and golden hues cast a serene ambiance. My new rock star pals — Jagger and Richards — seemed lost somewhere in the desert, so on the first evening I chose dining alone to read and reflect. On following nights I joined up with fellow hikers: mother and daughter spring break campers, and men from Chicago and New York who traded 50 weeks in a cubicle for two weeks without walls in the wild, wild West.
Meals were buffet-style for breakfast and lunch, and by reservation for dinner. The dining room spilled onto a flagstone wrap-around patio shrouded by steroid-sized yucca plants and junipers preparing for gin making season. There is no sweeter music than water in the desert, and beautiful carved stone fountains provided a natural symphony during meals — and a refreshing mist as the desert breezes shifted. Healthy living classes and events, including cooking demonstrations and nutrition assessments round out food and fitness for the oh-so-conscientious guests. Me? I passed on the evening nutrition lectures to linger with a second hard-earned glass of Chardonnay.
After two full days of physical activity, I lifted my gams just far enough to reach the spa. Flintstones meet fabulosity at the Sagestone Spa. Housed in an dome-shaped structure resembling Fred and Wilma’s Stone Age home, the spa is the perfect antidote to days chock full of mind and muscle-stretching hiking, biking, yoga, conditioning and climbing. There is a reason the root word of treatment is treat, so choose wildly from an array of delicious, deliberate beauty and body offerings. Chocolate, mint or juniper body wraps, pearl facials and multiple massage options — even hot stones therapy — carry guests from rugged to radiance in half the time it takes to hum a few bars of “Satisfaction.”
Red Mountain Resort was voted best “Spa for Traveling Solo” by Spa magazine. It is located in Ivins, Utah (300 miles / 5 hours from the Salt Lake City airport and 120 miles / 2 hours from the Las Vegas airport). For more information visit: www.redmountainspa.com
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Alison McFarlane travels every day. Some days farther from home than others. She keeps a bag packed with three perfect black outfits at the ready for the next amazing adventure. Home is Salt Lake City, but mind and heart make her a citizen of the world. She reads, writes and dreams about globe-trotting experiences.