A Sunday night search for a lost hiker in the Big Island Wilderness Area of the eastern Upper Peninsula turned into a somber recovery early this morning, after conservation officers with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources located the man, deceased, apparently from an accidental injury.
At 8:20 p.m. Sunday, the Negaunee Regional Dispatch received a call about an overdue hiker who had been camping in the Big Island Wilderness Area. The 29-year-old man reportedly was alone and had failed to return to his home in Clarkston (Oakland County) at the expected time. The DNR’s 24-hour dispatch contacted local conservation officers Mike Evink, Mark Zitnik and Acting Sgt. Rob Freeborn, who responded by 10 p.m. with canoes to the Wilderness Area.
“The missing hiker’s vehicle was located at Big Island Lake trailhead,” said Freeborn. “We portaged into the Wilderness and paddled through Big Island Lake, Mid Lake, Coattail Lake and, finally, into McInnes Lake, portaging between each lake.”
Freeborn said that the officers eventually found the man at a campsite on McInnes Lake. It appeared that the hiker had experienced an accident in which his leg was badly cut and he then applied a tourniquet using his own belt. Unfortunately, those efforts failed, because the man was deceased upon the officers’ arrival.
Shifting to a recovery operation, the officers had to contend with challenging conditions, including the heavy rains that made it impossible for Michigan State Police to provide air assistance.
Shortly after 4 a.m., the officers were able to load the body into a canoe and transport him by water and over land back to Coattail Lake, where they were assisted by other responding agencies. Finally, the man was taken out by trail from Coattail Lake to federal Forest Service Road #2254,