If you like to hike in and around Yellowknife, you may have noticed some colourfully painted rocks scattered around the city.

A new Facebook group called YK Rocks is home to a community of Yellowknifers who paint colourful rocks and hide them for others to find.

Beverly Pilgrim founded the Facebook group and first started painting rocks as a summer activity to do with her daughter, Emma.

“I’ve always collected rocks for as long as I can remember and I’ve got friends who travel and they pick up rocks for me everywhere that they go,” she says. “I’ve got rocks from Mexico and China and Newfoundland and Alberta and B.C. and all through the states.”

All of these rocks were just collecting in a rock garden outside of her house, so this year she thought it might be nice to paint some of them. She started looking online for rock-painting inspiration and came across a community in the states that was painting rocks and hiding them for others to find. “Kind of like a feel-good project sort of thing,” she says. “So I just thought it’d be fun for something to do with Emma.”

She says she also started the group to teach her daughter about the positive power of social media.
“She’s getting at that age, where’s she’s getting into social media and trying to figure out what it’s all about and that sort of thing, and I thought it’d be nice to kind of show her the positive side of social media,” Pilgrim explains.
“And so we’ve been putting these rocks out there for people to find, just to make them feel good about their day, just as a surprise kind of thing that they find,” she says.

A couple of rocks Beverly and her daughter Emma have painted. Maybe one of them will show up around town somewhere… Photo by Meaghan Richens.

Since the group was created in early July, it has gained over 200 members, who regularly post pictures of rocks they decorate, hide and find around the city. Pilgrim says she has been pleasantly surprised by all the positive feedback.

“I thought a couple people might jump on board with it and see, but I didn’t realize that so many other people would start painting their own too,” she says.

“There’s a good 15, 20 people who have painted their own and put them out there, and it’s just been really cool to see it spreading around. I think the best part is the kids who find them, they’re just so happy when they find one that they then want to go home and paint their own. I think that’s really cool.”

“I’ve been amazed at the talent people have,” she says. “I didn’t realize that people would go to such lengths to put art on a rock.”

The mother and daughter team also manage an Instagram page with the same name. “Every rock that we put out there, we put the hashtag #ykrocks on there,” she says.  “So we’re hoping that anyone who finds one will pick it up and see the hashtag #ykrocks, whether they’re in the group or not and go online and just kinda see what it’s all about. And then they’ll post what they found as well and hopefully, it’ll entice them to either re-hide it, so somebody else can find it or just paint their own and spread some kindness out there.”

Pilgrim says this project has drawn her and her daughter out to explore new areas of Yellowknife.

“We go on adventures all the time, we go on different trails and hikes and all these sorts of things but this has taken us to places we wouldn’t have gone otherwise,” she says.  Pilgrim has lived in Yellowknife for 15 years and says it’s nice to still discover places she hasn’t been before.

“It’s given us a different perspective of Yellowknife,” she says.

Their project has been spreading positivity in other ways too, she says. Someone placed a painted rock near the Bristol Freighter airplane near the Welcome to Yellowknife sign, which prompted a discussion about fixing graffiti.

“There’s just a ton of graffiti on that box that the plane’s standing on. And all of a sudden people were like, we should go and fix that. And it’s vulgar words on it, and we know a lot of tourists go there, and a lot of people visit it,” she says.

They sent a note to the city about it, but haven’t heard back. Now some group members are discussing painting over the graffiti to fix it themselves.