Homer Glen man reported missing on hiking trip is found alive

Clifford WardChicago Tribune
Homer Glen man reported missing on hiking trip near border of Michigan and Wisconsin is found alive

A 71-year-old Homer Glen man who had been reported missing on a hiking trip near the border of Michigan and Wisconsin has been found alive, his brother and law enforcement authorities said Thursday afternoon.

Authorities had been combing the area around Imp Lake, a small lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, in search of John Niesman, who was reported missing since last weekend.

In a news release Thursday afternoon, the Gogebic County, Mich., sheriff’s office said Niesman was located in a wooded area near Imp Lake, which is located a few miles across the state border near Land O’ Lakes, Wis., where Niesman had been staying at a motel while on the hiking trip. When Niesman did not return to the motel Saturday night, the proprietor contacted police and Niesman’s family.

According to the news release, Niesman was “somewhat dehydrated” when he was found, and authorities planned to transport him to a hospital for evaluation.

His brother, William Niesman, also of Homer Glen, said authorities called him Thursday afternoon to say John Niesman had been found.

William Niesman said he was able to speak with his brother Thursday evening at the Michigan hospital where he had been brought. John sounded remarkably well, especially since he had not eaten since Saturday, his brother said. He had a water purifying device so he was able to produce drinking water, Niesman said.

The hiker said he became lost Saturday after walking in several miles near Imp Lake. John would try to find his way out during the days but thought he had become disoriented and had been walking in circles, his brother said. At night, he would simply lay down and try to get some sleep, John told his brother.

“I asked him if it got cold at night. He said, yes, it did, but if it got too cold he would just get up and exercise a while until he warmed up,” William said.

A resident Wednesday night spotted Niesman’s SUV in a parking lot near Imp Lake.

The Lac Vieux Desert tribal police and the Goegbic County sheriff’s police were only able to search for a brief time for Niesman on the evening after the vehicle was found. But the search expanded Thursday morning and included officers from area police agencies and U.S. Forest Service rangers.

Niesman has been going to the area twice a year for many years to hike and enjoy the fall colors, his brother said. John Niesman’s interest in Michigan and its state animal, the wolverine, led locals to dub him “Wolverine Jack,” his brother said.

At home, he walks 4 to 6 miles a day and would normally, on his Michigan trips, hike near the Porcupine Mountains area on the Lake Superior shore. However, he told a local resident that he planned to hike near Imp Lake in the Ottawa National Forest for a change of scenery, his brother said.

John Niesman does not own a cellphone, according to William Niesman.

“He didn’t believe in them,” his brother said.

Clifford Ward is a freelance reporter.

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