I just got back from a five-day vacation in Color Country–the affectionate name for the red rock mountains, arches, and hoodoos of Southern Utah. It’s a mind-bogglingly beautiful place. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend days hiking through Zion, Bryce, and Arches National Parks but if nothing else, just spend time driving the roads. The rock formations and barren landscapes in every shade of the sunset will have you pulling into every turn-off. You can see for miles and never spot a single sign of civilization–that’s what makes the few people and businesses you do see that much more interesting and Ernest Shirley’s Rock Shop of Hanksville a must-see.
Aside from two gas stations, Ernest Shirley Rocks is one of the few stores in Hanksville (population 197). The shop has been around for over 40 years–originally as a grocery store but after a too many unpaid tabs, Shirley quickly switched his business from produce to pebbles. Collecting rocks was always his passion and in this part of the Utah, you can’t get a lower overhead and a larger stock to work with. From the stucco of the facade to the acre backyard, every inch of the property is covered in petrified wood, agate, jasper, coral, bone, and fossils of all varieties. Ernest Shirley’s is the beauty of Utah’s landscape dissected into pieces…that you can take home with you.
You can find petrified wood side tables and agate coasters in high-end stores around the U..but Ernest Shirley’s is the real deal and amazingly cheap. There was this million-year-old-plus stump of petrified wood that I really wanted–for about $2,000 cheaper than I’d ever seen it listed but I resisted. I would have paid the $500 for it but I didn’t think I could finagle a 250 pound carry-on. ,I purchased four slices of agate for $20 (usually $60 and with a much better story than a mail-order catalog).
Sadly, Ernest Shirley died this past May and the future of the shop is a bit uncertain. So if you love rocks, pay a visit; all sales are negotiable, even the shop itself. It’s a rockhound’s dream.