Road Trip 2019 Blog 5: Exploring Utah – Cedar City, Kolob Canyons and Utah Shakespeare Festival

Having explored the wonders of Zion National Park, a quiet day was needed staying a little closer to our trailer/caravan and seeing what Cedar City had to offer, especially as we had Shakespeare to look forward to in the evening, the first time that either of my boys had ever experienced the pleasure of the Bard. Who knew that Utah would be a cultural oasis as well as a place of natural beauty? But it was true. That evening, we were going to be experiencing Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night in a theatre in Cedar City.

Cedar City

But first, to explore the city itself. We had already discovered the delights of Panda Express when I was given a break from cooking (Mums need holidays too!) and Walmart to buy groceries but we hadn’t looked in any depth at what else was in Cedar City.

It didn’t seem to be a big place, having one main street of note but it did have a university so there must be a fair sized population and it had to be a tourist hub because of all the natural sights to visit in its proximity. On driving through the city, we had noticed statues on the street which warranted more investigation and so, leaving early, again because Utah gets so blasted hot in late July, we decided to spend the morning strolling around the city.

I always like to explore places on foot as you get a wholly different perspective than you do from, say, a tour bus or a car. Little things get noticed that would otherwise pass you by and in Cedar City, one of the things that is most noticeable when walking is the presence of life-size bronze statues on the street as well as next to the more normal placement of parks.

My youngest posed for a picture next to Henry Lunt who was the founder of Cedar City and we found a most interesting statue of someone called Helen Foster Snow who was a travel writer and journalist who went to China but was originally from Cedar City. Most importantly, she was a great influence on the Chinese in compelling them to stand up to the Japanese who were trying to take over their country in the early part of the twentieth century.

Helen Foster Snow’s statue in Cedar City – a formidable woman

After browsing the main part of the city, the boys were restless and we had some time to kill before finding a lunch spot and preparing ourselves for our afternoon excursion to Kolob Canyons, the younger sibling to Zion, all from the same family of beautiful rock formations, so we went to a play park where the boys used up some of the copious amounts of energy that boys seem to have before hitting Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches shop (posh Subway) to have one of the nicest baguettes I think that I have ever had in my life. It was yummy.

Boys at the park

Kolob Canyons

A much shorter drive away from Cedar City is Kolob Canyons which is much smaller and less visited but still as good a place to marvel at nature’s power to mould and shape the landscape into something pretty lovely to look at. It is actually the back end of Zion National Park, still forming part of it but having to be accessed from a different entrance some distance away from Zion’s main entrances.

The sign – an obligatory photo opportunity

Having gorged ourselves on Jimmy John’s, it was time to work off some of that excess and head to the Canyons.

The car park at the entrance was virtually empty and we pulled over to show our membership and browse at the souvenirs in the small shop there before driving up what appeared to be a newly paved road into the canyon.

Huge cliffs of red rock loomed before us, smattered with sparse green vegetation which took nothing away from the impact of their brightness in the afternoon sun. The towering rocks were stunning, warm and intimidating.

There was a trail called Timber Creek Overlook Trail which we embarked on and which took you parallel to the main views over the canyon. Dusty and hot, the cloud cover was welcome while we were walking, the path being an easy walk to the viewing point. I would recommend this for its accessibility and gentleness, it being mainly on the level and not strenuous, even in the heat.

The culmination of the walk was a full panoramic view of the canyons stretched out in front of you, daunting and only hinting at what was behind them. There were other trails that were longer and more demanding but we had revelled in the landscape and Shakespeare beckoned.

It was time to head back along the trail, dodging the heavy spots of rain that were threatening. Along the way, I spotted a tiny hummingbird hovering in the foliage at the side of the path. Watching him busy at nectar gathering for a moment, I beckoned over the kids as quietly as I could but that little bird had somewhere more important to be and buzzed off before they had a chance to experience it. So tiny, so privileged to see it.

Utah Shakespeare Festival – Twelfth Night

Once we had fully explored Kolob Canyons, it was time to head back to the campsite and practice our somersaults in the pool or, at least, that was what the plan was for younger boys. I planned to provide stout support and enthusiastic encouragement from a conveniently placed lounger. After a day of organised tourism from the adults, it was time for the kids to let off some steam and have a splash about until they got hungry which, inevitably, happens sooner rather than later.

My youngest copying what I had shown him only moments earlier

After making sure that we had dinner, it was time to find the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre and be transported to Shakespearean times to enjoy Tudor comedy in a warm American setting, which, I have to say, felt a little incongruous. Actually, the setting for the performance was pretty impressive with its Tudor-esque timbers on the outside and its circular shape; it was reminiscent of the Globe in many ways.

July is the month for Shakespeare in Utah where the playwright’s many writing achievements are celebrated within and around the university buildings. There are daily performances and this includes walks and talks as well as the plays themselves.

Tudor styling on the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre.

Adjacent to the theatre, there were some lively minstrels singing in the gardens surrounding the theatre when we got there, being applauded by appreciative families who had come out into the warm evening sunshine to experience a bit of culture. We looked around to see where we had to enter to find our seats and encountered the man of the hour, William Shakespeare himself, perched on a bench, just itching to be photographed with eager tourists. We, of course, readily obliged the Bard and posed with his bronzeness.

Mr William Shakespeare sat next to Scuffed Granny and son who is rather forward with his hand placement. The Bard did not seem to mind.

After saying a fond farewell to Will and leaving him to be photographed with other willing punters, we found our seats and settled down to enjoy the play, Twelfth Night, a Shakespearean comedy.

Who wouldn’t kill for stockings like that?

I had my reservations about this. I mean, I love Shakespeare and I mean that genuinely; having had to teach it, you have to fully understand it in order to explain it to a class full of hormone charged teenagers so you need to fully engage your concentration when reading it. I like this process, examining the imagery and gleaning what Shakespeare was describing. However, when I was a kid, I found it almost incomprehensible and puzzling. And here I was bringing a nine year old and a twelve year old to a play that was going to be potentially inaccessible.

I had done some groundwork. I knew that launching the kids (and Mike, for that matter) into Shakespeare without any idea of what was going on was a recipe for restlessness and misery of a two, maybe three hour duration. I had a book which told the stories of Shakespeare’s plays in prose, simply and succinctly so that the key characters were familiar and the action of the play was recognisable. I also brought a two/three hour supply of sweet confections to assuage the boredom with some saccharine stimulant. This was risky as it may have worked against me, creating small outbursts of crazy kid energy but it had to be tried.

The stage is set…

And it was a triumph! No-one was more surprised than me. The kids and hubby enjoyed it, being able to follow what was going despite the challenges of Shakespearean English. The kids were engaged throughout, asking questions but doing so discreetly and generally understanding what was going on.

Happy family post Shakespeare – there can’t be many parents saying that

I have to say that this is to the credit of the performing company who put on one of the best performances of Shakespeare that I have seen, the humour coming through at all times and the audience being very much involved in the performance which means that they were definitely laughing at the right points! One gentleman in particular behind us guffawed loudly regularly which caused almost as much amusement for my boys as the play.

And so, the curtain fell on another evening in Utah and our time in this beautiful state was going quickly. Tomorrow, we had a very long day ahead of us in Arizona! Lake Powell and Antelope Canyon beckoned.

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