In what could be described as Geo-caching meets Van Gogh, it’s a trend that brings community members of all ages to the downtown areas of Atlanta to hunt for painted rocks.
Atlanta 903 Rocks is a Facebook group started by Amber Pond who fell into this hobby with her children by chance.
Community members are invited to hunt for uniquely painted rocks that have been hidden in the local area and then asked to share photos and where they found it on the page before hiding it again. Many of the rocks boast the 903-area code painted on the back so they can be identified to the area they were painted.
“We were on vacation in Florida, and we found our first rock, we were playing mini-gold and there was a little painted rock inside a Tiki-Man and my kids saw it and picked it up,” said Pond.
“We then went to Hot Springs, Ark., a couple of weeks later and went an Applebee’s and there was one in a flower pot. So, we got on Facebook and joined the groups to figure out what was going on. My kids wanted to see if Atlanta had it and they didn’t.”
But Pond’s kids wouldn’t let up on the idea. “That’s how it got started, when we found them out of town. The kids begged for a while and I thought that no one here would do it but after a while we gave it a shot. We then painted rocks for three weeks straight, set the group up and since then it’s exploded,” said Pond.
The Facebook group now boasts more than 1,800 members
“I never expected anything like this,” said Pond.
Since then, Facebook groups for the rocks have been started in Texarkana and the surrounding area.
Some rocks with the 903-area code on the back have even turned up in other states as well.
There are some rules to hunting the rocks around town. When you find one that you want to keep, you are supposed to replace it with another painted rock. It’s also recommended that when painting the rocks that they are sprayed with a protective coat such as a triple thick sealer or dishwasher safe Mod Podge to protect the paint from the elements.
“I understand keeping a couple of them, but try to replace the majority of them as you go, to help keep the game going. If you pick up every rock and don’t replace them, there won’t be any left for the next kid that comes through hunting them,” Pond advises.
The most popular rock being hunted has been dubbed ‘Andy the Alligator’.
“He goes missing quite often. I worry when he hasn’t popped up on Facebook after a couple of weeks,” said Pond. “I have another rock that is similarly shaped that I’m keeping unpainted just in case someone decides to adopt him and keep him at home.”
While the game itself brings community members together; it is advised by the Texas Parks and Wildlife not to leave the painted rocks in the state parks as it violates their ‘Leave No Trace’ rule with serves as a way for the parks department to protect the environment from human interference and influence.
Some area places have even used the painted rocks as a means of advertising their businesses.
“I feel as if it has brought our community together.” Pond said. “Downtown, the highway department and the city park have been the most popular areas to hunt for them and I’m so surprised its gone as well as it has.”