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Game rocks all ages
Coastal Living
Taylor Smith, 12, shows off one of her finds since being part of the Liberty County Rock Hunting group. It encourages the finder to tell others that she loves them. - photo by Alena Cowley

Looking down as you walk around Liberty County may actually lift your spirits after a group of people are sweeping the county and leaving something special behind.

The Liberty County Rock Hunting group is in full swing and has joined in a recent national trend where people paint rocks and hide them for others to find by chance.

The local group was organized by resident Beth Dreas. She explained how an out-of-town trip started it all.

“We went to visit family in Daytona, Florida, and took the kiddos to the park to play,” Dreas said. “When we were on our way out of the park, we found a small rock with flowers painted on it.”

When they found more painted rocks on water fountains and on top of trash cans, they knew something was up. Dreas said she did some online research and learned about a rock-hunting group in that area.

“When we got back to Hinesville, I looked to see if we had one. And when I couldn’t find one, we decided to start our own,” she said. “I simply made the Facebook group and started painting tons and tons of rocks.”

She obviously loved the idea because Dreas estimated she, her son, and her mother-in-law painted 100 rocks just in that first month of starting the group. They hid the rocks around town, but made sure finders knew more than they did when they found their first painted rock.

“We put stickers on the back so people would know what it was when they found it,” Dreas explained.

There are not any rules with the paintings. People are free to put whatever they want on them.

“There are some that are scenery-themed, like mountains and oceans and those are just stunning,” she said.

Between a rock and a …
The painted rocks have a deeper purpose than just to enjoy, according to Dreas. Even though they may never actually meet the person who finds their little creations, those strangers are exactly who they have in mind when they paint and hide rocks around town.

“It gives us a creative outlet that allows us to be a blessing to someone else,” Dreas said. “We have so much fun painting the rocks and leaving them, in hopes that it will brighten someone’s day.”

Her favorite rocks are those with encouraging messages painted on them.

“I am especially fond of the ones that say ‘You Matter.’ That’s it, just those two simple words,” she said.

Dreas said once she and others hid some rocks and sat outside the Chic-fil-A to watch people find them.

“This group is so important to me because I am hoping to teach my son the principles of giving, rather than receiving,” Dreas explained. “And also, teaching him the value of always being aware of people around him and thinking of ways he can be a blessing and an encourager.”

Now, her son chooses to create and hide rocks for others to find instead of going rock-hunting for himself.

Hide ‘n’ seek
If you are looking to find a painted rock, scouting outside shopping areas are your best bet.

“Walmart seems to be the most popular location,” Dreas said.

She said finders have the choice of keeping their discoveries or hiding them again for someone else. She also urged them to join the Facebook group.

While most everyone likes an unexpected, colorful surprise, the real fun is to be had in creating a surprise for someone else, according to Dreas.

“It is so much fun once you get started,” she said. “It can be a bit overwhelming to figure out what to paint on the rocks, but the ideas start coming usually after a quick scroll through Pinterest.”

Plus, it is also an “inexpensive hobby that doesn’t cause clutter.”

“It’s just not as difficult to get started like some might think,” Dreas said. “A quick trip to a dollar store gets everything going.”

The Liberty County Rock Hunting group has not organized any official meetings yet, but Dreas said it is “in the works.”

“We don’t have any rules, other than to not damage any property in the placement of rocks,” she said. “Thankfully, our group has been trouble free.”

The group held a competition earlier this month for Fourth of July. Participants painted rocks for the contest and Dreas’ mother-in-law made small trophies of painted rocks with patriotic themes.

Countywide Facebook page is:

Some neighborhoods, such as Isle of Wight, have their own groups

Coastal Living:Q&A with rock hunter Erica Smith

How did you first hear about the group?
“I was out at cheer practice and one of the other moms asked if I knew anything about the rock hunting Facebook page and I told her I did not, but my daughter loves rocks. She’s always collected rocks, even as a little girl, she’d just pick up rocks because she said they were neat-looking. So she told me about the page and I searched for it on Facebook and joined the group and from that point, took my daughter out rock hunting and it’s just been our fun little activity ever since.”

How did you first start participating?
“I know some people have them (the rocks for painting) in their yard. Some people go to the dollar stores and get a little bag of the decorative rocks, which is what we did. I know people that go get the bigger rocks from Lowe’s or Home Depot and paint those. So, we painted maybe about eight or 10 rocks ourselves and went out and hid those.”

What were your first thoughts?
“For us, when we see rocks, we like to look at all the different designs. And you kind of imagine the person who painted them, what they were thinking. You have kids from two to three years old painting all the way up to adults, painting, and it’s just neat to see the designs. And when we hid them, we tried to hide them in a place where we hadn’t seen before and we were also trying to think of places that were easy for those people that had younger kids.”

What did you paint?
“We did some polka dots. She made a ladybug. Just whatever comes to mind, you just kind of draw. We found some metallic paint and just did the whole rock in a bronze metallic paint and that came out really cool.”

How should people participate?
“If you find a rock, some people want to keep it and that’s fine. You can keep it for a keepsake. One rock I found, it’s so cute. It’s on my desk at work.

I do suggest that everyone get involved with the group. I think it’s great as a family activity. It gets us outside. It gets us moving. It gets us learning about the area. There might be places you may not have visited before, but you end up going because you know there’s a rock over there. Or there might be a little gem that you know about, so you hide a rock there to get other people there. Definitely a great activity for families and to get to know other people.”

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