“Hey, that kid’s got a pickax. Do you think we can borrow his? Why didn’t you bring one to Glitter Mountain?”
“…Paul Bunyan is still borrowing it…”
Not necessarily the conversation I thought I’d be having while on my Thanksgiving vacation. Or ever. And yet, my baby brother was asking me for a pickax since my 2 hammers weren’t sufficient apparently.
By now, you’re probably wondering what in the world we were doing. Here’s the background…
My family spent Thanksgiving last year in St. George, Utah, which was a first for all of us. Before Thanksgiving, St. George was a potty-stopping-McDonals-drive-thru-gas-up kind of place. We never had any reason to stop and explore the hidden wonders around this particular corner of Utah.
Now? I can’t wait to go back and explore some more!
So what can you do with both teenage boys and 4-7 year-old girls? Fortunately, my sister found the answer: Glitter Mountain.
Located just south of the Utah/Arizona border, lies an old gypsum mine. Known by locals as Glitter Mountain, Sparkle Mountain, or just the Old Gypsum Mine, it really lives up to it’s name. As you approach the location, the sunlight catches the gypsum on the ground and in the rock, creating a glittering effect.
I love glitter.
When we arrived to the mine, there were already a ton of people milling around: teenagers too cool to have fun, kids hacking away at the mine, and a few gung-ho adults with full-on shovels, coolers, and buckets. They were literally digging for treasure.
My brothers and I headed down to find our location where we could start looking for our jewels. Since I failed to bring a pickax (silly me), we used the back side of 2 hammers.
Quick geology lesson: gypsum is a soft, clear mineral sedimentary composite.
What does that mean?
It flakes. It’s brittle. And mostly clear, once you wash off the red.
After I took this picture, I was able to break it with only 3 fingers.
Getting to Glitter Mountain is somewhat of an adventure in it of itself. When we got everyone into the car, I pulled up the email my sister had sent me with the “directions” from Pinterest. I thought it was going to be easy to find this place…but I was wrong.
I ended up working off of a hand-drawn map from The Salt Project.
Isn’t that fantastic?
You end up driving down south of St. George, turning right onto a dirt road “under the overpass,” and then turn again at the cattle corral. Oh. My. Goodness. I have a Honda Civic. Although we were able to make the trip just fine, we passed mostly trucks, jeeps, SUVs, and minivans. Just drive slow. There are tons of potholes.
What you need to know before you visit Glitter Mountain:
*Bring water. You literally drive into the middle of nowhere, Arizona.
*If you want to attack the wall for your gypsum (instead of just picking it up off of the ground), I recommend bringing a pickax or a hammer/screwdriver combo. I even saw a kid with a crowbar…
*Bring a bucket or bag, or something to carry your jewels in. If you try to keep them in your pockets, they’ll chip/shatter/leave shards all up in your clothes.
*Wear glasses when chipping at the mine. The gypsum flakes off really easily and I’d imagine it would hurt if you get shards in your eyes! I made my nieces and brothers wear mine.
*Although hand-drawn, the map above is really accurate and there’s no real location for Google maps.
*The best time of day to visit is in the morning, when the sun is on the East side of the mine!
Have you ever heard of Glitter Mountain? Would you drive into the unknown in search of such a place?