By Antoinette Rahn
If you ask Paul Fabela to name some of the best days in his life, it’s a good bet that list includes the day he discovered a unique specimen of selenite in eastern Utah.
As a truck driver, Fabela drove Interstate 70 at least four times a week for a number of years, not to mention the many times he drove that same route during his non-work travels. Becoming familiar with the road and the surrounding landscape, when something high on a hillside caught his attention one day, he was intrigued. At first, Fabela said, he thought the glittering object might be a piece of glass, but then he decided its position high on a hillside may be a bit of an odd space for discarded glass.
Roadside Inspection Leads to Selenite
To satisfy his curious mind and rockhounding spirit, one day he stopped along the roadway and began to inspect the area. What he found was a unique specimen of selenite, which is a variety of the mineral gypsum. The pale-yellow specimens include golden-orange phantoming, and admittedly the sight of it took his breath away, Fabela said.
“When I first found the selenite in this area, I knew it was something special,” said the lifelong rockhound, who moved to Utah about 15 years ago and was a member of the Southern Utah Rock Club.
Upon discovering the treasure that the Utah hillside contained, Fabela did some research of ownership of the area and invited his friends and fellow rockhounds, Christopher Hardy and Jole Merrill, to accompany him on digging excursions. The trio came away with 10 pounds of selenite during the first dig. Within the first month of making the discovery, they had hauled out 600 pounds of the mineral.
Creamsicle Claim Dreams
In October of 2018 Fabela and Merrill put a claim on the 20-acre area, which is located in Emery County, Utah. The appearance of the selenite served as inspiration for the name of the claim, which is Creamsicle.
“It’s really exciting being a claim owner,” he added. “I’ve been a rockhound since I was a kid. My dad did construction work and I’d spend hours digging through the gravel piles at the sites.
“Even though I had been a rockhound almost all of my life when I moved to Utah, my interest in it and desire to learn more about it completely changed. I’m really glad it did.”
Uncovering the UV Reaction
Not unlike the original discovery of the selenite along I-70, Fabela and his friends’ further discoveries surrounding the characteristics of the mineral have often been unexpected but thrilling.
“The first time we saw it was UV reactive it was accidental,” Fabela explained. “We were in Chris’ basement researching it and using a UV flashlight, and we saw it glow green and bright orange.”
It was a moment none of them would forget.
“We were like kids in a candy store,” said Hardy, describing the first time they saw the selenite reveal its fluorescing attributes.
Additional features that piqued Fabela and his friends’ curiosity as they spent more time digging in the hillside was the presence of enhydros within many of the specimens. In some instances, there is movement in the enhydros and in other examples it is stable, Fabela explained. Enhydros are hallowed nodules within specimens that contain water that’s been trapped.
In addition to having specimens from the site tested to confirm it a
selenite, Fabela said Southern Utah University is also testing the mineral samples to determine if the orange inclusions in the specimens are organic matter. If tests are conclusive, it adds to the uniqueness of the selenite extracted from Creamsicle claim.
Since making the discovery in the summer of 2018, Fabela estimates more than 8,000 pounds of selenite has been extracted from the site. In addition to selling selenite via social media and directly to rock shops, Fabela and Merrill take reservations for digging excursions. Arrangements are made to meet at a general locale and then the group travels to the claim site. The cost to dig is $100 for the day.
In addition to all of the exciting moments to occur as a result of Fabela’s highway hillside discovery, the opportunity to share this excitement with others may be the greatest highlight.
“Getting selenite into the hands of people who appreciate it as much as I do and more is the best part,” Fabela said. “I just really love this material and want to share it with others.”
To connect with Paul Fabela, call 435-592-2352 or email email@example.com.