In the Before Times, we reported on two rural getaways. We're reprinting the article now both as an idyllic memory and a promise of travel in the very near future.



Storybook village? Check. Relaxed vibe? Check. Jaw-dropping scenery? Check.


Embracing the great outdoors, we filled long weekends in the east and west of America with mountain stays to remember.



Meadowbrook Inn
Just three hours from Durham, in the artsy village of Blowing Rock, the Meadowbrook Inn offers 62 spacious rooms and suites - many of which are newly renovated and provide a fireplace, sunroom, wet bar, oversized deck and whirlpool tub for two. Plus, pet-friendly rooms are available.


The location of the richly landscaped inn can't be beat: At the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains; steps from shops, galleries and restaurants on the charming town's Main Street; a few minutes' drive to hiking and biking trails as well as the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.


The Meadowbrook Inn's furnishings are traditional, but the amenities (flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi) are modern. The property provides a pond with ducks, a fitness center, a heated indoor pool and a complimentary breakfast buffet. Nearby is more outdoor recreation, including boating, sailing, water skiing, fishing, golfing, whitewater rafting, mountain climbing, canoeing, horseback riding, skiing and other winter sports, and, for those exhausted from all the rugged exertion, outlet shopping.


We dropped into the casual Bistro Roca and Antlers Bar, a few blocks off the main drag, to savor a lovely brunch by the fireplace. Talk about local! The walls are decorated with whimsical photos of the dogs of regular customers, which were taken at the bar by a professional photographer. We were delighted by chef Seth Parker's inventive menu, starting with eggplant frites with honey mustard; followed by wood-fired flatbread topped with prosciutto, caramelized onion, manchego and sundried tomatoes; and spectacularly finished by Bailey's mocha bread pudding.


At Twigs, an 80-seater co-owned by a lawyer and his brother, we enjoyed a standout dinner. Executive chef Matt Franklin, who uses some of his grandmother's recipes, buys locally sourced ingredients as much as he can. To begin, flash-fried oysters were served with a lobster cream sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Then, he presented pecan-crusted mountain trout drizzled with Amaretto butter. For dessert, French press coffee accompanied crème brulee, a pecan bar and a brownie. (We devoured all three.)


Legendary must-sees in Blowing Rock include Moses Cone Memorial Park and its 13,000-square-foot Colonial Revival-style Flat Top Manor, built in 1901 by the textile magnate, and Grandfather Mountain, the highest peak in the Blue Ridge range. On this getaway, we added another must: Blowing Rock Art & History Museum, which promotes the arts and Southern Appalachian history with free exhibitions worthy of a national institution.


Cliffrose Lodge & Gardens
Speaking of idyllic mountain escapes, on the other side of the country, Cliffrose Lodge in Springdale, Utah, borders the red-rock wonderland of Zion National Park. Of course, you could explore the grandeur of Zion for a full week or more, but we made do with a carefree weekend break from a convention in Las Vegas, just two-and-a-half hours away.


The serene Cliffrose, framed by sweeping vistas, was created in 1988 by the late Dale Dockstader, a man who loved nature. His son, Breck, who runs it now, keeps things in the dreamy 56-unit lodging updated and boutiquey but still down to earth.



Our Canyonview King featured a private balcony with spellbinding views of Zion's red-rock cliffs and Virgin River as well as cushy amenities, such as a Serta plush pillowtop mattress, work desk with data port, refrigerator and microwave, and 55-inch Samsung TV.


At the start of each day, it almost felt like cheating to take a five-minute stroll on the path that runs behind the lodge directly into the park while vehicular traffic at the entrance was at a standstill. After pulling their cars into lots at the visitors' center, guests aren't allowed to drive anyway; they must hop on shuttle buses. It's an efficient system that protects public lands from overcrowding while taking people on scenic drives to trailheads, waterfalls and other hot spots.


In this relatively small national park, everywhere you step or look - cliffs, canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths, rivers, arches - is striking. Landscapes range from red-rock desert to high-altitude forests sprawling across the plateaus above the canyon.


The adventurous go rock climbing, rappelling, tubing on the Virgin River, cross-country skiing in winter and, naturally, hiking. The Narrows, an upstream, boots-in-the-river trek with stunning views of the towering (2,000 to 3,000 feet straight up) canyon walls, is geared to very experienced hikers.


At the end of our exhilarating day in Zion, it was heavenly to return to a relaxing home base practically next to the exit. (There are campgrounds and just one rustic lodge inside the park.) Cliffrose's five acres include manicured lawns and gardens, a heated outdoor swimming pool (open seasonally) and a pair of two-tiered waterfall hot tubs.


You can also walk the trail less than 1 mile into Springdale, population 600. Although tiny and stretched out along the main road, the hamlet includes cute shops, galleries and eateries. The closest, Café Soleil, become our regular stop for great coffee as well as meals and snacks.


Chef/owner Tamera Burton features paninis, salads, soups and pizzas made from healthy and organic ingredients. While browsing the gift corner at the colorful restaurant, we bought locally knitted hats that said, "Peace. Love. Coffee. Zion." Perfect.