Friday 7 November 2008

Kolob Canyons Visitors Center Toilets: Not Quite an Outhouse, But Not Far Off Either

Kolob Canyons Visitors Center
3752 E Kolob Canyon Rd
New Harmony, UT‎ USA

Where is it?

Just to the left of the main entrance to the visitor's center (don't go in). Since this is a pretty small building, the bathrooms are pretty easy to find.

What's it like?

Kolob Canyons make up the upper section of Zion National Park. To get there, you have to travel about 40 miles north of the main Zion exit on Interstate 15, at which you'll see an exit leading you to the entrance of this part of the park. From there, you pay for admission at the aforementioned visitors center and then drive 5 miles into the mountains to see the canyons from an overlook area.

This section of the park offers far less user-friendly options than Zion proper, mind you, unless you're a hiker (there are dozens of hiking paths here that take you deep into the back country). However, it's also far less crowded (our Zion portion of the trip put us in the middle of many thick crowds, while here there were maybe about five cars' worth of people at most) and the amount of quiet you experience is astonishing.

Plus, the views of the mountains, valleys and plateaus are breathtaking, primarily since your vantage point is much higher than in Zion proper, which positions you on the canyon floor looking up. Definitely worth the trip if you can make it -- as said, a paved road takes you from the entrance to an observation area in the middle of the mountain range. From there, you have several hiking options, which range from moderate to hard in terms of difficulty.

While there is an outhouse at the observation area (review coming next week), people are still encouraged to use the one at the visitors center, since it has running water and heat and a few other modern conveniences (like electric light).

Though outside of that, the bathroom itself isn't too far removed from its outhouse brethren. It's very plainly designed, with painted concrete walls and a red-brick tile floor that's reminiscent (albeit cleaner) than the similar-looking floor at Fresh Market Orlando, among other places.

It's a pretty large space too, considering the limited options available to you -- quite a contrast to such recent stops at the World Famous Coffee Cup Cafe, which pack in too much for the space allotted.

Here, you'll find one urinal, one large vanity area with two sinks, and one toilet stall -- with a whole lot of common area in the middle of it. (And I don't mean to infer that this place has a basketball court for a common area, but it's still pretty large -- maybe 10 feet by five feet, which feels too big for the fact that it's essentially a one-bagger masking itself as a two-bagger.

Given that space, it's funny to see that the urinal is pressed up pretty close to the vanity area (why not put it somewhere else, where there's more room?), with only a flimsy off-white metal divider separating it from the vanity counter.

The stall (with a divider made of the same flimsy off-white metal as the urinal divider) is at the far end of the place, and it's a roomy stall indeed -- long and wide enough to take up about one fourth of the bathroom area in all. (Not monstrously wide, but still it feels bigger -- and definitely longer -- than it needs to be.)

The vanity isn't much to look at: A pale red particle-board counter housing two while porcelain sink basins. Single-knob faucets (the old-fashioned ones with those twisty knobs on them) sit atop them, with a cheap stretch mirror hanging behind the vanity and a plastic soap dispenser glued to the middle of the mirror. To the far left is a hand drier (no towels here) -- a chrome one with a weathered-looking finish (clearly, it's seen better days).

Dim fluorescent lighting illuminates the place, along with the help of some natural light that peers in through the windows in the back corner, at the top of the toilet stall. The place is somewhat drafty, as expected given the vast amount of space here and the high altitude in which it's located. (I have a feeling the place is closed in the winter -- if not, expect a very chilly visit!)

The room is pretty clean on the whole, though there's a good deal of wear and tear to be found: The walls are chipped in spots, as is the floor and vanity, and there are some water stains here and there on the porcelain.

Though overall it's fine and functional. The air is a bit dank and tinged with urine -- with a smell similar to the one experienced at the Little Pee Dee State Farmer's Market, only without the hints of chemical in the air.

Still, if you're on the highway and in need of a stop, this place is easy to find and ready and waiting. You could do worse, especially considering the limited options available to you in this part of the country.

Marks out of 10:

6. Functional and clean, but that's about it. Not terrible, but it's still about as close to an outhouse as I've ever seen a regular bathroom be, really.

Comments to the Management:

I realize you don't get a lot of visitors, but I think a new coat of paint and some general touching up will do wonders here, as would adding a heater and putting up a few posters of the mountains around you for some local color.

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