Valley residents are doing a double take on usually mundane rocks while traversing parks, concert halls and trails.
Snuggled between their earth-tone brethren were colorfully designed and meticulously painted rocks. On the backs of all of them was a similar message. “You found me! Post on F.B. Phx Hidden Rocks, keep or rehide,” read one rock.
“Phx Hidden Rocks” Facebook group was founded two and a half years ago by Dawn Bricking and her husband, Thomas. The rocky affair started when Thomas found a painted rock while on vacation in his hometown of Cincinnati, and had fun participating in the rock group there. When they returned to Peoria, they thought, Why not start a group themselves?
“We really liked the idea and didn’t really see any solid groups out here that were doing anything of this nature so we decided to start one of our own, and it took off pretty quickly,” Dawn said.
The page works like this: Anybody can paint a rock with their preferred design or message, and then either post clues of the rock’s location to the Phx Hidden Rocks group page or let others find it on their own.
“Once the rock is found, they can either keep the rock for themselves or they can go and hide it again and post it with more clues,” Dawn said. “So, the more people who get involved, the more people who we have joining in a group and being able to stumble upon the rocks.”
When the group began, Dawn and Thomas painted and placed the rocks.
“It was mostly me and my husband putting out probably 200 or 300 rocks before anybody else started participating,” she said. “But we’ve gotten quite a few more members now that are putting out rocks almost on a daily basis.”
One of Dawn’s favorite rocks was one she painted to look like Stitch from the Disney movie “Lilo & Stitch.” Other members have gone all out, with one person painting a series of Disney princesses and villains. The rocks contain messages like “You make the world a better place” and “Don’t let anyone ever dull your sparkle.”
To help fuel the fun, Dawn has held rock-painting events at a local library, offering painting advice and giving away a rock-painting kit. Since then, over the last six months, the page has expanded and members are regularly posting their finds to the page. Dawn hopes to do another event soon, but she laments that the library might not be big enough for the growing group.
The rocks from participants end up all over the Valley and beyond, though most rocks seem to appear in the Peoria and Glendale areas. Parks, libraries and public sports facilities seem to be the most popular places to find the hidden gems.
“It seems to be (Peoria is) the concentration where most people live that seem to find them, but they’re definitely throughout the Valley,” Dawn explained. “I know my husband and I. We have a tendency to travel all around, so we’ll randomly leave (them in) Downtown, Chandler, Tempe. We venture out quite a bit.”
There are more than a dozen rock groups on Facebook in the Valley, including Scottsdale Hide & Seek Rocks, Ahwatukee Rocks, Goodyear Rocks, Surprise AZ Rocks, Buckeye painted Rocks, Mesa/Gilbert Rocks and Chandler Kindness Rocks.
Phoenix rocks have been discovered worldwide. On June 12, a rock was found on Maui. Two more were located in Colorado and Oregon, the latter found on the beach.
“Granddaughter found this cutie in Winchester Bay, Oregon hidden on the shore in a driftwood pile. Her smile says it all. It will make the journey back to Idaho,” wrote Cecelia Lawrence in a June 22 post to the page.
One rock made the journey across the pond to Lincoln, England, where it resides in a lush green garden.
Alice Weaver has been a member of the page since December 2018. She discovered it after finding rocks in Phoenix and Goodyear.
“I had found a rock and I thought, well that’s kind of cool and I kind of didn’t think about it again. Then when I went hiking, I found another rock and I thought, you know what, I could do this,” she said. “The rest is history.”
Weaver estimates she has found 30 rocks and painted 300 to 400 rocks in return. Her favorite thus far has been a mini-series she painted based on the musical “Wicked.” She also enjoyed Sylvester, the cat from “Sylvester and Tweety.”
She hasn’t seen too many of her rocks – only about 25 – returned to the page.
But Weaver said, for her, it doesn’t matter as much if people post the found rocks on the page. She wants to know how people feel when they stumble upon her paintings.
“I was just looking for ways to make people happy because when I found those two rocks I thought, You know what, that brought me joy. Why can’t I do the same for other people? You know, one rock at a time,” she said.
Dawn agreed and said that philosophy is why pages like this are so successful. People enjoy a little dose of kindness.
“We want to be able to have people have something that brightens their day,” Dawn said.