When I asked Veronica Rife to tell me what item she loved most, she knew the answer right away. “It’s my hand-held Garmin GPS, and I use it for geocaching,” says Veronica. “Aside from the people I love, it makes me happier than anything in the world.” Veronica is recently retired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and has a love for science and learning, the outdoors, and travel. It’s no surprise that her most-loved item connects each of these elements.
If you’re not familiar with geocaching, it is an outdoor activity where people use a GPS or mobile device to hide and seek treasures–geocaches–at specific locations all over the world. One can easily download the free app and begin to hunt for caches right away. Each participant’s online account contains a map with little green dots to indicate treasure yet to be found or yellow smiley faces for those already located. To date, Veronica has found more than 1,200 geocaches.
Veronica’s brother introduced her whole family to the concept in 2011 when geocaching was just getting started. “At the time, I didn’t have a GPS device; I didn’t even have a cell phone,” Veronica says. Her family had a great time together hunting for the cache that day, and Veronica hasn’t stopped since. Veronica’s primary cache-hunting partner is her husband Scott. She regularly takes her mom, her friends, and now, even her new granddaughter Lillian has been introduced to the fun.
“When my friends agree to travel with me, they know geocaching stops are going to happen along the way,” Veronica says. “Over the years, those hunts have led us to places, people, and experiences we would never have had otherwise.” While looking for a cache in Barcelona, Veronica met a couple from Germany and another person from Great Britain who were also on the hunt. “It was an impromptu international gathering!” Veronica says. “We found the cache together and all went away happy.” She’s found caches in 34 U.S. states and 16 different countries. Even while assigned to work in Afghanistan with the Corps, Veronica found time to search for a few treasures.
Those who geocache can not only look for items but can hide them for others as well. Veronica hid a small ceramic turtle while working at the locks and dams in Illinois one year. Myrtle, as she was named, had a message attached inviting the finder to help her travel the world. Before disappearing from the geocache grid, Myrtle made it to Germany, Italy, and around the U.S. for a total of 5,274 miles!
By Megan S. Willman | Photos by Erika Doll