IDAHO FALLS — A continuous hide-and-seek game is going on in east Idaho, and everyone is invited to play.
Here is the catch — it involves painting and hiding rocks. Already, thousands in the region are taking part in creating and searching for these special treasures. Not only that, but thousands of rock hounds have been connecting with each other via Facebook “rock” groups.
Perhaps you’ve seen some of these colorfully painted rocks. These unique pieces vary from simple ladybug likenesses to some pretty amazing intricate designs, and are painted by the young and old, the experienced and budding artist. They are typically “hidden” in places that crowds frequent, like parks, in front of businesses, or at the library or art museum.
The rock painters and hiders say they simply want to brighten someone’s day, explore the area in which they live, and connect with others while doing it.
Sabrina Chambers started the Idaho Falls “Rocks” Facebook group, which has grown beyond her expectations.
“I was inspired by Vancouver Rocks, and thought it would be a good idea to start the movement here,” Chambers said.
The rock craze and multiple Facebook rock groups have popped up all over the nation; the Idaho Falls “Rocks” Facebook group started out small last fall, and already has more than 7,000 members. There are also groups in Pocatello, Rexburg, Rigby, Shelley, Firth, Blackfoot, and more. These groups are known for the wide variety of people they attract and how uplifting and supportive everyone is.
Also surprising is just how much the painted rocks have helped others.
“I get lots of private messages,” Chambers said. “Saying how it’s been good to get everyone off their devices, how it helps people with PTSD and time with family! Something new for everyone.”
A few common courtesies when painting and hiding rocks:
This hide-and-seek painted rock game could be compared to Pokemon Go! or geocaching, except with a big difference: no technology necessary when painting, hiding or seeking.
The mere fact that it takes people away from technology is a huge draw for participants. Plus, it’s easy for anyone to do. You just need some rocks, some paint, and a place to hide them.
Jeff Henry and his family joined in on the rock painting fun recently, and it’s already impacted their household.
“Before joining the group, you would see everyone sitting around with a glowing screen in their face a lot of the time,” Henry said. “Now everyone wants to paint rocks constantly. The quality family time we have now is priceless. We’ve also been out walking parks and exploring more than we ever have. It has also been nice to get out and enjoy the outdoors a bit more than normal. The extra exercise is nice too. This has been a great experience for us.”
Others have had similar experiences of togetherness.
“It gives us an opportunity to get outside, be active and get to know our community while looking for rocks. We have made many friends while we hunt and hide rocks, which makes it even more fun!” said Hailey Williams.
“These painted rocks spread love, kindness, laughter, smiles, and art. The art is what really gets me. I love seeing the variations in artwork,” said Rebecca Harkness.
Local businesses are also getting on board, like Happy Orchard Daycare in Idaho Falls. Every week they have kids paint and hide rocks.
As Amber Landon said, “We also have been a part of the rock scavenger hunt, where local businesses have hidden rocks all over town that can be turned in for prizes. We hid a rock that could be turned in for three hours of free childcare!”
Many of those who paint rocks take their rock art seriously. Perhaps their art isn’t being shown in a gallery, but it is still being seen and appreciated by many.
To many, like Annabelle Henry, the shape of the rock tends to dictate what the final painted picture will be.
“I find rocks that look like they would be a good canvas and make some art to hide for others to find and enjoy,” she said. “I love seeing when people find my rocks, especially when they say they love them too much to let go of them.”
After finding a painted rock, and posting a photo of it on the Facebook group, many finders learn that the rock has an interesting back story. Gretchen O’Bleness found a small painted purple Nike shoe rock in Freeman Park. She was able to connect with the painter via the Facebook group.
“The woman who had made this was honoring a friend who had died that loved to run,” said O’Bleness. “I think everyone paints rocks for different reasons, but bottom line when someone (of any age) finds your rock and it makes their day, it makes our day, too!”
Some participants, like Tessica Vizcarra, are members of several east Idaho Facebook rock groups, so she and her kids hide and find rocks depending on where they are at the time.
“Now, my house is overflowing with rocks. We can’t get enough!” Vizcarra said.
For one local woman, the rock craze has been a way to get to know the area. After moving to Idaho Falls from Seattle, Jennifer Kerns Walker said, “It’s been a great way to learn about my new community here in Idaho Falls.”
Some of the rocks even travel beyond the area they were first hidden. While painting, some rockers may choose to designate their rock as a “traveling rock” by writing so on the back, along with the Facebook group of the painter.
Kayla Rapp said sometimes it takes days or months, but it’s fun to see where a traveling rock ends up when someone posts a photo of it on the rock’s original Facebook group.
This story shared by Annie Stamn illustrates how something as simple as painting and hiding rocks has blessed her son’s life:
“I have a 15-year-old son that is an amazing artist,” Stamn said. “He is also very ADHD and autistic, so when I recently found this group I joined it in hopes that it would bring a little bit of life back into my boy; having the problems that he has is very quiet and has a very hard time making friends, but he is the most loving and kind 15 year old boy you’ll ever meet.
“Last week for the first time, I got him to paint a couple of rocks and hide them, when he saw the picture on Facebook of the kid that found his rock his face completely lit up and had the biggest smile on his face.”
Leslie Sieger, EastIdahoNews.com
Matt McFarland, CNN
Nichole Stanford, EastIdahoNews.com