A Study in Contrasts

We were bound to run into a joint like the Terrace Brook Motel eventually.

Given our somewhat manic search for inexpensive accommodations in lands unknown to us, we’ve tripped over a couple of gems and a few dogs along the way (witness: The Executive Inn in Greenville, Mississippi). But the Terrace Brook, perched only minutes from the stunning beauty of Zion National Park, was just plain funny.

It wasn’t unsafe or dirty, but it was an odd, struggling small motel amid more pristine digs like The Desert Pearl, the Cable Mountain Lodge, and the Canyon Ranch Motel. Those might have offered swimming pools, jacuzzis and in-room coffee makers, but they couldn’t have offered the laughs that Gabi and I got out of the Terrace Brook.

It was just – well…odd.

Like the baffling policy of charging $1 for 15 minutes of computer use in the motel lobby, but offering free WiFi (which one accessed by using a 12 digit key.)

Like the space heater in our room with a $10 price tag on it. We weren’t sure if that meant we’d be charged $10 if we used the heat or that the owners had picked the heater up at a tag sale. I think it’s the latter, as we used it to ward off the desert chill at night and weren’t charged.

Like the old style stick-shift faucet whose shut-off point seemed to change with every use. A lot of gallons of water have dripped through the tired old fixture over the years, and we sure did our part.

Or the shades on our first-floor window that came about three inches of closing together, providing pedestrians and drivers-by with a perfect view into whatever was going on in Room 9. I set out to somehow join the shades when I noticed straight pin left in the fabric, either by management or a previous inhabitant.

Or how about the lamp whose shade looked like it had been hit by a baseball bat, or the TV whose remote would only progress one way?

The bed was comfy, sheets clean, the heater gave us what we needed to stabilize the room’s temperature, and it was a perfectly fine if not comical placed to spend the night. Gabi had read some online reviews of the place, so we weren’t surprised by the motel or its staff when we checked in with an accommodating young man in a room redolent of a good curry.

It provided an odd contrast to the natural beauty of Zion, accessed just a mile from the Terrace Brook through the National Park Service gate in Springdale, Utah.

Zion is yet another geological gem in a string of diverse and stunning parks Utah has to offer. Where Mesa Verde offered the high plateaus and ancient cliff dwellings, and Bryce the puzzling hoodoos of red sandstone amid deep canyons, Zion presents a series of sheer red sandstone cliffs that plummet to the Virgin River which has carved the canyon over the years.

Then there’s the Big White Throne, an enormous white rock rectangle that looms over the smaller mountains.

We took the shuttle to the top of the trail head, where the canyon narrows and one has to hike in the river to proceed (we didn’t since we didn’t have waterproof hiking boots).

But we hiked from the Temple of Sinawava stop from the park’s south entrance, heading south to the three Emerald Pools on a path that traversed the mountain several hundred feet up. Along the way deer munched on budding grasses and limbs, unafraid of the parade of hikers who would pass them only feet away.

The majesty of Zion offers a different feeling than the others. This is simply massive, imposing, and beautiful. And to think the tiny Virgin River – its green waters no more than 40 feet across in the areas we saw it – could generate the force required to carve the canyons from these rock edifices is difficult to fathom. One guide told us there is no evidence of glacial activity, so the deep cuts and striations on the mountainside could only be attributed to the Virgin River.

Flash floods have had a lot to do with Zion’s creation, and there are signs everywhere that the river could change in an instant from a gentle meandering creek to a raging torrent that would cut a path of destruction. Posters showed signs of imminent danger (debris pushing ahead of the flood, and a sudden rise in river heights), and offered more advanced warnings to the dozens of river hikers who headed into the chilly waters, adorned with hip waders and hiking sticks.

We hiked only a tiny portion of Zion and saw a little more of it from our car as we drove the canyons from north to south to Springdale, and it left us wanting for more.

Part of the reason for the attraction was the town of Springdale, a quiet yet hip community that’s there to cater to hikers, mountain bikers and campers. Wonderful outdoor and gift shops, and a genre of food that’s designed to power the human machine into the mountains rather than to cater to the more eclectic tastes of a foodie.

To us, Springdale seemed a perfect blend of Santa Fe’s artistic beauty, Durango’s easy-going focus on the outdoors, and Bryce and Mesa Verde’s breathtaking natural wonder.

As Gabi wrote earlier, this is a place you’ll want to spend some time. We’d have spent more, but the Grand Canyon looms on our itinerary.

We drove along the canyon’s rim as the sunset last night en route to our hotel, and we’re off shortly to check out the vistas and magic of one of the world’s most stunning natural wonders.

Stay tuned…

      3 comments

      • Anonymous

        Gabi and Skip….. what a wonderful photo and I lived through the description of that room remembering similar ones I’ve been in. I’m going backwards in your blog now….. very well written by the way by both of you. xoxo R

      • Tim and Julie Lutts

        Skip and Gabby,We’ve been reading (and looking at the great photos) since Virginia. Fabulous blog. Keep up the good work.Tim and Julie

      • fbk

        Zowie!! You’re in the heart of the country now! Loved the motel and it’s not-quite-meeting-in-the-middle curtains!!!! This is great reading, and I am loving it.

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