Hidden painted rocks the latest craze sweeping across the South Shore
On Monday morning, Skylar Stacey was filling her car with gas when something caught her eye: a rock painted with a pink flower and the words “LET IT GO” sitting atop the nearby trash can.
“My first thought when I found the rock was my grandma. It made me a little emotional. When I was growing up she painted rocks all the time. She would find giant weird shaped ones or small round ones and turn them into cool stuff,” said Stacey.
“I always had ideas for her and she would always surprise me with the rocks I asked for when I was least expecting it. She passed away from cancer a while back and it just made me really miss her — but it also made me happy to randomly find something that made me think back to my childhood.”
The painted rock, which Stacey re-hid for someone else to find, is part of a growing movement of South Shore residents painting and hiding rocks all over the community.
Dana Keith has been painting and hiding rocks in Lake Tahoe and beyond for three years through her #SpreadArtProject — and the sort of reaction that Stacey had was exactly the reason she started in the first place.
“Whenever someone finds a rock it brings them a lot of joy. I get emails from people who say they were having a bad day or week and finding the rock was exactly what they needed at that moment,” said Keith, who includes her email and hashtag on each rock.
Keith purchases her rocks from a gardens store, then paints them with insects, animals, hearts and encouraging words. When she travelled to Hawaii, she took 40 painted rocks in her carry-on bag to hide. One of her rocks even made it to Brazil and landed on the Olympic volleyball court.
“I feel like it really caught on because people saw the kindness of it and the love and joy.”
There are now three local Facebook groups — Tahoe Rocks, Lake Tahoe Rocks, and You Rock, South Tahoe! — where nearly 400 people share pictures of the rocks they painted and leave clues about where they’re hidden.
Denise Llewellyn created You Rock, South Tahoe! in August, and already the group has over 200 members.
“The goal is to encourage art, creativity and connecting within our community,” said Llewellyn, who found out about the craze from her goddaughter on the East Coast. “I started doing it because it was a great activity to do with my grandkids. It’s relatively inexpensive, fun, any age can do it, and it gets you outside.”
Llewellyn estimates that her group alone has hidden around 150 rocks on the South Shore already.
Hope Linder, an administrator for Tahoe Rocks, found her first painted rock at a rest stop in Wadsworth, Nevada. A note on the rock directed her to the Fernley Rocks Facebook page, which inspired her to seek out a group in South Lake Tahoe.
“It’s a cool little hobby and people enjoy finding them,” said Linder. “The kids especially have fun with it. My kids love painting them, but they love finding them more.”
Linder said she has heard some negative comments about the craze, though.
“There are a few people who frown upon it. We try and stress that you shouldn’t take rocks out of the national forests or hide rocks in the national forests,” explained Linder. “We do use non-toxic sealer so the paint doesn’t wash off the rocks.”
The U.S. Forest Service and California and Nevada State Park systems promote the Leave No Trace principle, and therefore do not allow the rocks to be left in any of their parks or wilderness areas.
But, said Linder, the overall response has been incredibly positive.
“It brings smiles to people’s faces — and that’s what really matters.”