- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 3, 2009

YELLOW SPRINGS, Md. (AP) | The trick to stacking rocks is keeping them from rolling.

Balancing stones in precarious, improbable combinations is a specialty of stonemasons Jared Herman and Brad Palmer, who recently built about 40 rock sculptures along Hamburg Road, a paved two-lane road that winds through public forests in the Catoctin Mountains north of Frederick.

The temporary sculptures, some up to 4 feet tall, charmed and mystified area residents and visitors to the wooded area in September and October.

“They’re such a cool thing to drive by,” said Becky Griffin, who sometimes takes the road home from work.

The best rock sculptures look impossible, said Mr. Herman, of Frederick.

“That’s kind of the fun of it — to make it look like it doesn’t work,” he said. “It’s just gravity and friction.”

The men described their work to the Frederick News-Post, which tracked the pair down after a neighbor spotted their business name, Olde Towne Historic Landscape, on a truck.

They learned about rock balancing at a stonemason’s conference in Vermont, Mr. Herman said.

“We just do it in our free time,” he said, although the business partners also have created similar yard sculptures for clients.

“In rock balancing, you look for the point on the stone it probably shouldn’t be sitting on. It’s kind of like a puzzle,” Mr. Herman said. “You just kind of figure out where the center of gravity is, and the mass and weight of the stones, and determine how tall you can go.”

“We try to find unique stones,” said Mr. Palmer, of Walkersville. “Any old stone will work, but we look for unique rocks because they make unique sculptures.”

About 10 of the sculptures included large rocks that required both men’s muscles.

Mr. Palmer said he’s not disappointed when wind and frost inevitably topple most of his sculptures.

“These stones have seen a lot more than this,” he said.

Nearby resident Andy Nichols said he’s seen many such sculptures while hiking on his own and as an outdoor adventure guide.

“The first time I saw something like that was 10 years ago out in San Francisco Bay. Now you go up in the backcountry, all over Dolly Sods, W.Va., … down the Shenandoah River on the Potomac, and people are picking up and balancing rocks like that.”

Mr. Nichols likened it to the Zen-like concentration of rock climbers.

“It takes patience and looking for irregularities in the rocks, and getting in tune with the rock itself,” he said.

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