Anacortes is known for its small town charms, fantastic hiking trails, amazing sunsets and family-friendly festivals.
Now rocks can be added to the list. But, these aren’t just any rocks. They are hand-painted rock creations meant to inspire creativity, kindness, and the exploration of nature.
Spreading Smiles with Painted Rocks
Anna Dianna Wood started Fidalgo Island Rocks in June 2016, and the growing group now has over 3,455 members.
“When I started the group I needed a distraction from the negativity in the news and wanted to spread kindness,” said Wood. “I had no idea that Fidalgo Island Rocks was going to blossom as it did. Now, I get messages every day about how it’s touched people’s lives, and that is why I keep doing it.”
What do these rock charmers do? They paint rocks, hide rocks and find rocks. Then repeat. Some rocks are hidden in plain sight, while others are nestled into nooks and crannies of the great outdoors.
“We have some great parks on Fidalgo Island, and we want to encourage people to get out and explore,” said Wood. “Hiding rocks in the Anacortes Forestlands is off limits, but you can hide them at Deception Pass State Park, any Anacortes City Park, and even downtown and along the waterfront.”
You’ll find rocks with intricate drawings, some of which include seaside sunsets, animals like cats, foxes, panda bears, and beloved characters such as Scrat and Harry Potter, and there are also motivational phrases like “love” and “play outside.”
Some rock hunters keep the treasures they find, and all are encouraged to rehide and rotate out the rocks they keep. “The group is not about getting things. It’s all about sharing and spreading happiness,” said Wood. After finding a few rocks myself, a rainbow cloud and a “Smile” rock at Seafarers’ Memorial Park, I can certainly say they brightened my day.
Downtown businesses also joined the fun like Michele DeCarlo, owner of Lil’ Tugs Children’s Boutique, who baked cookies for rock hunters, hid rocks in her store and hid rocks with discounts in historic downtown.
At Escape Anacortes, Brandi Givens said, “We love that people are getting out and exercising. It’s a great way to encourage healthy bodies and minds.” They also hid rocks with their logo and gave a discount to their escape room.
Johnny Picasso’s regularly hides painted rocks around his art café and coffeehouse and is a meeting spot for rock exchanges and part of rock hunting events. The other day, when I stopped in for a box of handmade chocolates, I found a googly-eyed creation hidden amongst the ceramics.
Fidalgo Island Rocks isn’t exclusive, so if you find a painted rock along the trails or downtown, rehide it. Or, if you are like me, snap a photo and then set it back where you found it for someone else to discover.
Join a Fidalgo Island Rocks Event
Throughout the year they have organized rock-finding days. Their most recent one was November 15th for the Harry Potter themed night at the Anacortes Library. In the past, they have participated in Winter Wonderland Walk, and in June they often celebrate their anniversary with an outdoor event, such as Relay for Life.
If you want to create and hide your own rocks, or see when the next painted rock event is, join the Fidalgo Island Rocks Facebook group. On the page, they share found rocks, promote rock hunting days, announce milestone rocks as well as tips and workshops for painting your own rocks and painted rock challenges.
written May 2017 by Lara Dunning, updated December 2018