It was a cold and windy day as we made our through the woods towards the shoreline on Whidbey Island. We were hiking along a trail near Swantown, which is at the north end of the island near Oak Harbor. As I glanced up at the dancing trees, my eye caught a glint of sparkle on a branch. Looking more closely I could see there was a rock, tucked in the crook of a branch. A beautiful painted rock. A ‘Whidbey Island rock.’
This wasn’t our first Whidbey rock. Credit for that goes to the kindness of a stranger who gifted a rainbow rock to my delighted daughter as we strolled down the pier in Coupeville. Soon after, we learned these lovingly created treasures are the nature girl, or guy’s, equivalent of capturing a wild Pokémon à la Pokémon Go.
Rock communities have been cropping up all over the Pacific Northwest, and this new take on treasure hunting is growing in popularity. With a little help from social media in the form of community Facebook pages, Washington residents are getting on their creative groove and sprinkling a little love around the state, rock by rock.
The sweetness is in the simplicity. Scout for a “good” rock (flat and paintable), buy some acrylic paint, sealer and paint brushes…and then the fun begins! Get your inner artist on and paint your rock. Seal it. Write instructions on the bottom of the rock that tell the finder which Facebook group to post a photo to once it’s found. Then, go hide your rock. Rocks are being hidden in all sorts of family-friendly sites: hiking trails, playgrounds, parks, town centers, and on the waterfront.
You can choose to focus exclusively on creating and hiding or you can be a finder too. Some people keep their first rock or rocks they find with special meaning and re-hide the rest. It’s all up to you!
I just love this! Anyone can do it: toddler, teen, moms, dads, grandparents. The entire family can get into the rock painting, hiding and hunting action. And it’s a fantastic way to connect with nature and community.
Rock projects are also a great way to help kids learn other life lessons, like you may not always find what you seek, though you may discover unexpected treasures along the way: wildlife, flowers, an historical tidbit—it’s all out there.
We picked up trail litter on our hike too which is a great segue for talking about taking care of the environment so everyone can enjoy it. But the best lesson, in my opinion, is that you can have fun and adventure by taking your eyes off your screen or phone, stepping outside and enjoying looking the beauty of our surroundings with those we love.
Interested in rocking out with your neighbors?
Facebook is exploding with community groups ranging in size from a few hundred members to over 28,000 like the group Vancouver, Washington, which was one of the largest I found. I saw rock group Facebook pages for: Kitsap, Port Angeles, Mount Vernon, Edmonds, Gig Harbor, Port Townsend, Mercer Island, Snohomish County, Tacoma, and Whidbey Island, and many more!
To find the group nearest you, search with the name of your community and the term “rocks.” Can’t find a group in your community? Consider starting one yourself! All you have to do is create a public Facebook page. This YouTube video shows you how. Then post simple guidelines such as no hiding rocks in national or state parks, on private property or cemeteries, along with reminders to be respectful to properties (don’t hide it where someone could run over it with a lawnmower or get hurt!) and ‘Be nice‘ when posting on the community Facebook page.
Want to be a rock artist?
Head on down to your local art store or purchase the following supplies on Amazon: Acrylic Paint Set, Clear Acrylic Sealer, Paint Brush Set. The next step is to paint your rock with colorful, creative images and messages, making sure to write the name of your community group on the back of the rock. The rocks we found said this: Whidbey Island Rocks. Rehide or keep. When found, please post on Facebook. Some rocks also include the date or year and the artist’s signature or initials. Our Whidbey rainbow rock said ‘KU, 2016.’
Then hide your rock! If you find one, you can either keep or re-hide it—and make sure to post your find on the Facebook page corresponding to the rock group. I’ve heard people are finding rocks in one county and hiding them in another. Have rock, will travel!
Rockin’ Tips ‘n Tricks
- Make sure to seal each rock so if it rains (as it so often does in the PNW), your artwork won’t wash away.
- Don’t attach anything to your rock. These rocks will be found by people and animals–be nice to wildlife!
- Rocks should enhance, not harm the environment. Be respectful. Follow set guidelines, and do not hide rocks at national parks or state parks, on private property, or on Washington State Ferries.
- Give and ye shall receive! Herein lies the joy. Remember when you search, you might not find anything.
- Don’t expect to see your masterpiece on Facebook, though it’s fun if you do.
- Share the love and the rocks. Some rocks we found, we kept; others we re-hid, which was a lot of fun too.
- Get into the spirit with others. Throw a rock painting party. Paint a rock family with your family. Check out the Facebook pages for inspiration and connect with your community.
We kept two of our finds and re-hid several others. I’ve seen some rocks with mind-blowing artistry, and I’m itching to go exploring and discover some more. I will say that we first learned about the hidden rocks, I found myself searching everywhere which, while fun, sort of got in the way of just enjoying the beauty around me. After awhile I forgot about the search and the element of surprise made discovery a lot cooler. Next trip to Whidbey, I think we might even paint and hide a Seattle rock of our own.
So if you’ve ever wanted to join a rock group, now’s your chance. Rock on!
It’s all about the journey,
Postscript: One of the Whidbey Rockers told me about a map that has been created to show groups from all over the world. Each pin has the name and web address for a group. Find a group in your area, and discover new groups as they are discovered and created. Here’s the link.