Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Charles “Chuck” Mettille - All Cachers Feel The Loss

      Sometimes things happen that remind us all of what a small world we live in.  Sometimes things happen that remind us what a close knit family the caching world is, no matter where on this earth you live.  The lose of Chuck Mettille is an example.   I had never met Chuck or his family, as far as I know, but the story of his departure is touch to say the least.
     Mark Johnston, a Mettille family friend, was asked to post the following on Facebook.  Please take a moment to read and take note.  Some of the points here are life savers.

Chuck's family has asked me to post the following note on this site, so here it is:

 “He Was Just Taking A Walk In The Park”
I would like to express my condolences and deepest sympathy to the family of Charles “Chuck” Mettille of Cave Creek Arizona. Chuck passed away yesterday (July 07, 2012) while “GeoCaching” in the North Phoenix area of the Sonoran Desert Preserve.

I would like to especially thank the following people for their efforts in finding Chuck when he went missing: Chris and Jason (Chucks’ sons in law), Charles Mahan, Scott Nicol, the geo caching online community, and the officers at the Phoenix Police Department.

Chuck Mettille took a trip geocaching Saturday morning around 10:00. Although Chuck did tell his family that he was going, he had not informed anybody of his target areas. He only gave a vague location of 7th Avenue and Carefree Highway. After many hours passed without any word from Chuck, his family began to worry. Together, Chris, Jason and Charles were able to determine where Chuck was probably geocaching, through the online geo caching community and recent postings of new caches. Through their creative approach and deductive abilities, they found Chucks car at the trail head located at Central Ave., about a half mile south of Carefree Highway. There were several new caches posted for that area that they thought Chuck would want to “bag”. They found success after hours of searching and input from the geocaching community.

Scott Nicol, whom had no connection to the family, was my search partner. Scott was a fellow geocacher and a genuinely great and caring human being. He learned of Chucks disappearance via the internet and drove all the way down from Sedona to volunteer his time to help search. He knew of the particular caches that we thought Chuck might be chasing, so with his e-maps in hand we set off to find Chuck.

After walking the trail and adjacent ravines for about 20 to 30 minutes, we found Chuck about 15 yards off trail and about 12 feet down in a ravine, where it appeared that he may have fallen (speculation). It was about 1 AM this morning (July 8th). Chuck had unfortunately perished before help was able to reach him. We immediately notified the Phoenix Police Department who was already on scene, searching for Chuck by foot as well as helicopter.

I also had the displeasure of notifying Chris, Chuck’s son in law of our discovery. Chris, Jason, and Charles had been searching the semi-mountainous area as well, but were well south of that particular area at that time. Chris then relayed the message to his family members. Notifying the next of kin was especially difficult as I know Chuck and his family on a personal level and have known Chris for the better part of 20 years.

I would like to remind anyone and everyone, from the day hiker to the outdoor enthusiasts, that hiking in Arizona’s deserts at any time, and anywhere, especially during the summer months is a dangerous thing to do, even if you are prepared. The beauty and allure of the area are in stark contrast to the hazards located within.

Chuck was hiking in city limits just a few hundred yards from a housing community, he had hiked in all alone. I’m sure that he felt very safe and capable of this “walk in the park”, but what compounded the lack of a hiking partner was the appearance that he also had gone off trail.

There is no certainty as to whether Chuck elected to leave the path due to confidence, or if his judgment was impaired by dehydration. The cause may have been an unrelated health issue or even snake bite, but that information isn’t available yet. I do know, though, that his chances of survival would have increased a hundred fold or more had he been accompanied by another hiker.

Chuck was a successful, independent, self-made man whom loved his family dearly. He went for walks around the neighborhood in the mornings for exercise. He always seemed to have a project going. He had “bagged” over 1200 caches in the last year or so and was in excellent health. He was outgoing, energetic and really enjoyed the challenges that came with the sport of geo caching.

Chuck, much like the rest of us, wasn’t perfect. He made a couple of small mistakes that many of us do when we get comfortable with the daily routine of things, and it cost him his life.

Please remember, that when you go out hiking, YOU are responsible for your own safe return.

This all may sound a bit cliché, but here are some rules of hiking that I personally would regard highly as ‘Cardinal Laws of Hiking”:

•Let somebody know where you are going and when to expect you back.

◦ Be as specific as possible. Chuck did neither. He only said what he was going to do, not where or for how long. He left home around 10am. By 5pm the family became worried enough to rally the troops and begin their own search. The local police departments could not help because he had not been missing for more than 24 hours and nobody knew where to even start looking.

•Hike with a friend.

◦Chuck was alone with no one to help him.

•Take at least enough water and snacks to last 6 hours beyond your expected hike time.

◦It does not appear that Chuck had taken an adequate water supply with him. The geo cache that he was after was about 1.5 miles down the trail and the high temperature for the day was expected to reach 108 degrees with about 25% humidity. Couple those numbers and add another 10 to 15 degrees for direct sun light and you get an extremely high heat index. This was a 3 mile round trip on a desert trail. Albeit it was in city limits, that is a long hike in those conditions. It has come to my attention that Chuck carried a canteen with him. This may have been enough water for the hike, but certainly not enough to help cover for any unforeseen delays. You may also need to render assistance to another hiker at which time the extra supplies will come in mighty handy.

•Carry a whistle.

◦Chuck was only 15 yards off trail, but because he was in a ravine, other hikers could not see him and probably not hear him if he had the energy to yell out. A loud whistle takes very little energy to blow and the high pitch sound carries well beyond the limits of the human voice.

•Wear the proper clothing.

◦Chuck was wearing cut-off jeans, a short sleeve t-shirt, tennis shoes and a fishing hat. These did little to protect him from the viciousness of our Arizona afternoon sun or the rugged ground which he hiked.

•Enable a GPS locating app on your cell phone.

◦Chuck had a cell phone that worked. His family called it repeatedly throughout the day. I don’t know if he had it on him or left it in the car, but I do know that the cell phone company could not locate it unless they had a court order to do so. Had he installed a GPS Locator app and enabled it on his phone, his family could have at least located his phone which would have expedited the search considerably.

•Stay on the trail.

◦Chuck was found about 15 yards off the trail, we may never know why, but it is the fact that most hikers that get into trouble are hikers that have left the trail to take a short cut or to take in the sights.

•Be aware of any extreme or extraordinary conditions which you may encounter.

◦In this case, Chuck was hiking during a particularly hot weather event. Take into consideration the type of terrain that you are willing to tackle and the effects that the weather may have on them. A hot, dry event can leave the ground parched. The rocks loosen when the soil dries out which can cause very loose scree or talus laden slopes. Conversely, an unusually wet event can easily lead to flash flooding.

Accidents will still happen, you can’t plan for every eventuality, but if you do these things, you can reduce the probabilities of becoming a victim and neither me, nor any other search team member will have to make that call to notify your next of kin. I would much rather carry you out injured, kicking or screaming 10 miles on my back than have to tell your loved ones that you won’t be coming home.

Just an extra 5 minutes of preparation on your behalf can save hundreds of hours of search time, your family and friends from an enormous grief and most of all…..your life!

It was just a walk in the park after all. That was how we found him.
Today is a very sad day for Chucks family and friends. My best wishes and prayers go out to them all.

Brian A. Borton Sr. 7/8/2012
The story is touching and important.  The safety facts are invaluable, especially coming from a family member of one lost on a caching trip.  The tips will be re posted here from time to time.
Thanks Brian for sharing and Mark for passing this info along to all of us.   
More info on the life of cacher Chuck Mettille will follow in the coming days. 


  1. Hi Brian, What a wonderful writeup on Chuck. Please correct your title of this cache and the description. It should read: All Cachers Feel the Loss.

    Lose is a verb. I am not being a smart Alec; I just want this dedication to be correct because this post goes out to so many people. You may lose readers because of grammatical errors. This is the correct use of lose. Thanks for listening and using loss instead. These are absolutely excellent hiking and caching tips. My husband is AdventureMike from Sedona.

  2. I have met Chuck on several occasions, he was such a fine gentleman. And even though I hike a lot, and by myself both in CO and AZ I'm totally aware of the dangers. Since I work in a nursing home, Chuck left the way I want to, doing something I love to do, and not sitting in a rocking chair. Peace be with him.
    Tahosa ~ Dweller of Mountain Tops