Bethlehem man missing near California mountain town, police say
By Tony Rhodin | The Express-Times
on August 01, 2013 at 1:52 PM, updated August 01, 2013 at 3:19 PM
A 39-year-old Bethlehem outdoor adventurer who teaches math in the Nazareth Area School District has been missing for two weeks near a California resort town that is surrounded by mountains.
Matthew B. Greene, of the 200 block of Eighth Avenue, was last in contact with family July 16, the Mammoth Lakes Police Department said this morning on its Facebook page. He was staying at the Shady Rest Campground while his vehicle was being repaired at a local shop, police said. He has not returned to the campground, where he paid through July 17, or picked up his car, police said.
He is an avid hiker, rock and ice climber, friends and family told police. He arrived about June 27 in Mammoth Lakes "to hike, camp, and conquer peaks in the Eastern Sierra," police said. He was traveling with a friend and they climbed some peaks near Mammoth Lakes, Detective Doug Hornbeck said. But the friend moved on to their next stop when Greene's car broke down July 6, Hornbeck said.
Police received a missing persons report Monday after the friend's wife contacted authorities, concerned when she couldn't contact Greene. The Mono County Search and Rescue Team has been advised, police said. But without a location, the team cannot begin a search, police said.
He may have gotten a ride from someone to a remote area to hike or climb, police said. There is still one person out on the trail who is currently out of contact but police know spoke with Greene prior to his disappearance, Hornbeck said. They are hoping when that person returns he can provide some clue where Greene entered the back country.
Police are hoping anyone who saw or heard from Greene contacts the Mono County Sheriff’s Office at 760-932-6549 X7. Greene's friends are getting out a similar message on social media, Hornbeck said.
Greene's mother, Patricia, said this afternoon she is sitting by the phone and praying at her home in Franklin Township in Carbon County.
Matthew Greene, a teacher at Nazareth Area High School, is an outdoorsman who developed good survival skills during three years in the Peace Corps in Paupua New Guinea, his mother said.
Each year since he's returned from the south seas, he's taken a summer jaunt to hike, climb and mountain bike, often in the West, she said.
She last spoke to him July 16, but, while on these trips, he didn't check in very often, she said.
"It's not like I heard from him every week," she said, describing her son as a loner who loved being in the wild.
"He just kind of liked to do his own thing," she said, adding that he lives by himself in Bethlehem.
Hornbeck said Greene would often go off on a hike and not return phone or other messages until he emerged a week or so later.
In recent days, Patricia Greene tried to call her son, but his phone went straight to voicemail, she said. She was about to call police when the phone rang. It was Mammoth Lakes authorities seeking information from her.
Greene is a graduate of Lehighton High School who spent a year at Clemson University before transferring to Penn State University's Hazleton campus and finishing his final two years at the main campus in University Park, Pa., his mother said. He's run the Boston Marathon and raced in numerous other places, but when it comes to outdoor athletic activities, "He does it all," she said. "... He's just an outdoors guy."
Even though he enjoys open spaces, he is equally at home in the Lehigh Valley, she said.
"He's a nice guy," his mother said. "He's very understanding of people. A good teacher. Everybody liked him."
As to whether he could survive for two weeks in the wild, his mother paused for a moment on the phone.
"It's possible, It's just that it's so long. No matter how good you are, no one is invincible," she said, pointing to the likelihood of an accident or an encounter with wild animals.
Mammoth Mountain "looms over the town" from the west, according to the town's Wikipedia page. The Sherwin Range "dominates the view" from the south, the page said. The town of more than 8,000 is more than 7,880 feet above sea level and is popular for its range of recreational activities, according to a visitors' guide.
Hornbeck said that Greene is an experienced hiker and climber who did his research and would have understood the local terrain.
The search and rescue team is "outstanding," Hornbeck said. But without a starting point, there's no way to start a search, he said.
There were three days of bad weather in the middle of July and there were flash floods in the remote mountain valleys, which in the past have cost hikers their lives, he said. There was also hail, thunder and lightning, but overnight temperatures don't drop low enough at this time of year to make exposure a risk for an experienced hiker, he said.
"You can be in the back country here and the weather can change overnight," he said of the flooding risk.
The biggest problem right now is a fire about 25 miles away with smoke so thick it has been blocking the mountain view.
People have gone lost in the mountains and, if they get caught up in a flash flood, their bodies sometimes aren't found for weeks, months or even years, he said.
But for now, authorities, much like Patricia Greene, can only wait. The word is out, Hornbeck said, but "we haven't heard anything yet."