It’s an art-creating, treasure-finding COVID-fueled hobby that looks to grow even stronger with time.
Members of the local painted rock hunt scene say the part art project, part scavenger hunt has grown by leaps and bounds in the past year of COVID.
The Hope groups find their roots in the Kindness Rocks Project, an initiative designed to uplift, inspire and spread joy through artistic rocks.
The object of the hobby is to paint rocks with a bit of art as well as information on where the rock is from and which group on Facebook it started from and to hide the rock outdoors. Those who find painted rocks post about the rock on its corresponding Facebook page and talk about where they found it. From there, the rock can be kept or it can be hidden away for another rock hunter to find. The local hashtag is #H2Y, a search of which brings up photos of locally sourced painted rocks on Facebook and Instagram.
The Hope to Yale Rock Hunt Facebook group (found at www.facebook.com/groups/H2YRockHunt) has grown to 1,700 members strong, according to organizers Melissa Stevenson and France Legere. The duo teamed up with the group founder Jessica Broswick and grew the community to 1,000 by April 2020.
“Between the two of us, we just made a ton of rocks and hid them everywhere,” Stevenson said. Word spread quickly through Facebook and by word of mouth as the hobby grew.
Legere said finding her first rock at the Zopkios rest area inspired her to participate.
“When I found that rock, it made my whole trip; it was like icing on the cake. It made my day,” she recalled. “I can imagine like one little rock making me feel like that, imagine someone having a really crappy day.”
“This is a random act of kindness,” Stevenson chimed in. “We’ve had some really great stories. We’ve had people find them and post that say (a painted rock) found them at the right time where they were suicidal, where they had been celebrating some sort of date on their recovery path.”
Prior to COVID, #H2Y rocks have appeared in Ecuador, Mexico, UK and Ireland, to name a few. These days, mostly rocks that started in the Fraser Valley find their way to the Hope area and vice versa.
“We’re now part of a sisterhood with several groups,” Legere said, adding similar groups are found in Chilliwack, Mission, Clinton and beyond.
Doris Roberge-Escaravage recently started the HopeBCRocks group, which has about 24 members as of publication. She used to run a rock painting page a few years ago but moved to a group format to be more interactive and inclusive. She’s been in the hobby since 2017 when she found a painted rock in Pitt Meadows. One of the rocks she created for the local rock painting scene ended up as far away as Hawaii.
Though Roberge-Escaravage hasn’t hunted for rocks for some time due to battling cancer, she enjoys the stories she sees on the local rock hunting groups.
“At Christmas time, one girl put up a video, and she’s like ‘this is such a nice start for our little walk with my daughter today, and she’s so happy she found this (rock) and we’re going to re-hide it,” she said. “It just sort of uplifts people.”
Once she is vaccinated, Roberge-Escaravage hopes to return to rock hunting.
Once COVID is a thing of the past, both Stevenson and Legere expect the hobby to remain strong, if not continue to grow. The group hopes to hold in-person meeitngs again once it’s safe to do so, which would present more opportunities for contests and fundraising events.
“I really hope that people continue the be kind trend and strive to make people happy,” Legere said.