PENINSULA — You’ve all been playing a game — you just may not have known it.

You thought that little rock you saw on your walk painted to look like Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies was odd, but you didn’t think much more about it. That is until a few days later you saw another, hiding in plain sight, with a flower painted on it.

Upon further inspection (flipping the rock over), you find the words “Hide again or keep. OP/LB Rocks Facebook” written on the back in felt pen. A quick look at the page and it all becomes clear — we are all part of a giant game of hide and seek.

Painted rock hunting seems to have become a “thing” around the same time as the mobile game Pokemon Go in summer 2016. Similar to the video game, players search in public places for hidden treasures. The game is open to everyone and has only one rule and stated goal — if you find a rock, keep it or hide it again. You earn extra rock hunting credit for posting a picture of your find to the Facebook group of its artist.

Emily Gilmore started hunting and painting rocks about six months ago after having seen it being done elsewhere.

“I was so excited when the group started over in Astoria, and found that we had a group on the Peninsula as well,” she said. “I loved the idea behind it. A family friendly way to spread kindness, joy and love.”

Gilmore said she and her nine-year-old son Tyler have taken to the game with gusto.

“I love that it’s a simple, inexpensive way for us to spend quality time together and to be active when we’re outdoors looking for rocks,” she said.

Gilmore also said she likes the painting side of the game just as much as the hunting.

“I find painting rocks very relaxing. I often paint even after Tyler has gone to bed,” she said.

Gilmore said it’s also been a great way to meet new people in the community. She said the game brings her a great deal of happiness.

“Every time we find a rock it brings a smile to our faces,” Gilmore said. “And when we hide rocks, even those we never see posted on Facebook or ever again, we smile knowing in our hearts that it will bless someone when they find it.”

Mary Butterfield, the administrator of the Ocean Park/Long Beach Rocks community page on Facebook started painting and hiding rocks a little over a year ago after she found her first painted rock like so many other players — by accident.

“My granddaughter was having surgery at OHSU, and I found a beautiful rock by the front entrance of the hospital. On the back it said Deschutes Rocks and had a Facebook logo. It made me smile, that simple little painted rock.”

After looking up the Deschutes group, she wondered if there were any such groups in the Vancouver area where she lives and found multiple.

“I started painting and hiding the very next day,” she said. “I loved the idea of spreading happiness and smiles.”

When Butterfield visited family in Ocean Park soon after, she introduced them to painting and hiding rocks. After discovering that there were no rock groups from the Peninsula on Facebook she created one, “with the hope it would catch on.” The local group is now 435 members strong.

“It’s been amazing to watch the group grow over the last year,” she said.

Gilmore said she recently came across a post on a rock hunting community page asking for cards to help a young man celebrate after recently having a brain tumor removed.

“The rock community came out in full force and we had 40-plus rocks made special just for him, to cheer him up and bring him joy,” she said. “It was such a blessing for me to bring them to his family.”

Gilmore’s rock painting page, Emzrockz: www.tinyurl.com/ybub5phc

The Ocean Park/Long Beach Rocks Facebook page: www.tinyurl.com/y9ma5ftl

The Astoria Rocks Facebook page: www.tinyurl.com/yb5pccrj

Next time you walk down the Bolstad beach approach, keep an eye peeled. This is a location where rocks are regularly hid on the Peninsula.

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