Every few weeks, my wife and I take a trip to one of the towns in Utah. We usually spend most of the day, see what there is to do there, and I try to get in a rock hunting trip. Delta is a mecca for rockhounding, with its proximity to the Thomas Range and also the House Range further south. There are also many mining activities further south toward Milford. We had heard of Sunstone Knoll, and decided to give it a shot.
We hopped in the car and took a jog down to Nephi, then drove down hwy 132 through the West Hills (not the ones in L.A.) to Lynndyl. We passed the two pioneer charcoal kilns — they look like beehives — and then took a short jog down to Delta.
Delta was built as an agricultural investment around 1910, and they still provide a significant portion of the nation’s alfalfa. It is strange to be somewhere so flat and green, and think that you are still in Utah (you’re actually in the Great Basin). The road running NW out of Delta goes to the Brush-Wellman Beryllium mine, and there are many mineral operations based in Delta.
On the outskirts of town we drove by the Red Rock Cheese company, and had to stop in (Alisha used to work in a cheese shop at Wegman’s in New York). They had a good cheddar, and some feta made from cow’s milk, which I had never heard of. We bought a block of white cheddar and some raspberry jalapeño jam (which is very good, especially on grilled ham & cheese). We asked the kid there what there was to do in town. He said “well, you have to make your own fun in Delta”.
We drove on into town, and our first stop was The Bug House, a rock shop owned by Loy Crapo. He owns the Dugway geode claim, U-Dig Trilobites, and a Septarian claim in Orderville. The shop is actually next to his house. We admired the barrels of rough outside and he came out to open the shop. Loy is a very nice guy. We talked rocks for awhile, he showed us a bunch of interesting stuff, and we ended up buying a few things we couldn’t live without. I got a septarian slab, and another for my uncle. We also got a few fossils from Morocco. He showed us some sunstones and told us how to find them. He gave us good deals on everything, and we promised we’d tell all our friends about his place. It was hard to peel myself out of the shop, and then I had to pass by the barrels of rough on the way to the car. But we had our own rocks to find. We grabbed a quick lunch at a cafe and headed through town.
Our next stop was West Desert Collectors on the main drag in Delta. They had a larger store and much larger collection. The prices overall were more, but they still had some good deals. We met a very nice lady there and found out she was Loy’s sister in law. One big happy family, I guess. I told her I was looking for a cab of bertrandite, and had heard that they were able to get their hands on the stuff. They did have a lot of it, but it was expensive. I picked out a little teardrop cab of the purple stuff, to put on a necklace chain for Alisha. This time it was really hard to leave, as they had tables and tables of stuff – Picasso Marble, ocean jasper, many kinds of fossils, and so many other things. But our time was running out.
We headed out of town and turned south on hwy 257. Delta sprawls out over the countryside, but is sparsely populated. As you drive out of town you feel like you’re heading to the edge of the world. We passed Fort Deseret, just four adobe walls on the side of the road. After that you are following a train track in the middle of nowhere. A few miles later we saw the sign for Sunstone Knoll, crossed the train tracks, and drove around the south side of the hill.
We didn’t really know where to look, just that the east side was better. We drove into this little cove with a huge rock standing in the middle. It looked like someone had placed it there, like an Easter Island statue. We got out of the car and started looking around. The rock was crumbly, and there were little white and yellow crystals in it. Very pretty little things. They weren’t large, but I couldn’t keep from staring at them when I found them. You can find little tumbled ones on the ground in the gravel. They are very bright and iridescent, especially when the sun shines on them. If you want to break open the asphalt-looking rock you can find larger ones. I saw a few that were a half inch wide, but still no more than 1/8 or 1/4 inch thick. I think there was something voodoo about the things – I couldn’t take my eyes off them. I was down on all fours, my face inches off the ground, picking them out of the gravel. They definitely weren’t as large as I had imagined. I got about a handful of them, picking them off the ground and dropping them in a water bottle. By then it was time to go home, so I reluctantly got back in the car.
We had to make good time, so we tore back through Delta and up the 6 hwy (the loneliest highway in the world, but we were on the not-so-lonely east end). We decided to follow the 6 all the way through Eureka and Santaquin, instead of retracing our steps through Nephi. The scenery is very beautiful. You pass Little Sahara’s sand dunes and Jericho Junction, before approaching Eureka. There was almost no traffic, and we arrived home in no time. This turned out to be a very nice day trip.
Sunstone is a yellow form of labradorite, a volcanic feldspar glass. It is the state gem or Oregon, and you can get some very beautiful faceted ones from there. The color ranges from white to yellow, to red, but you can have multicolor inclusions that range all over the place.
(Note: the multicolored sunstone you see above is mined in Oregon. I don’t know if you can find stuff like that in Utah. We only saw clear and yellow ones. Another kind of sunstone has a schiller effect — copper inclusions create the appearance of lines within the stone. You can kind of see the schiller in the faceted stones to the right. )