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Man lost and found in Lake Co. woods

Members of the Lake County Sheriff's Rescue Squad responded to a call last Tuesday evening and two hours later carried John Koepsell out of the woods. Koepsell was dehydrated and hypothermic, but safe after being lost in the woods for four days without food and water.

The 48 year old Koepsell, lost his way while out scouting for the upcoming hunting season off county Highway 2 about 30 miles north of Two Harbors, Lake County Undersheriff Steve Van Kekerix said.

"He was out scouting, and he had stopped because his car was overheating, and he took a short walk" while the car cooled off, Van Kekerix said. The man then got "turned around" in the thick woods.

A property owner came across Koepsell's unoccupied car on Tuesday evening -- with keys, wallet and phone inside -- and called the sheriff's office. Deputy Erik Furo responded, checked the area and yelled out -- and got an answer from Koepsell, who had not been reported missing.

Koepsell was within a quarter-mile of a cabin, but lost in extremely thick woods, said Jim Williams, captain of the Lake County Sheriff's Rescue Squad. The rescue squad was called at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday to help get Koepsell out of the forest.

Furo, the property owner and members of the rescue squad hiked in from the property owner's cabin off County Highway 2 just north of Whyte Road.

"It was so difficult," Williams said. "It's a dry swamp now. It's just so thick and brushy."

After they located Koepsell, it took about two hours to get him out, Williams said, with six men carrying him on a backboard.

"He was in tough shape," Williams said, "we worked very hard to get him out of there."

Koepsell was taken by ambulance to Lake View Memorial Hospital in Two Harbors, the sheriff's office reported. No information on his condition was available by the time the News-Chronicle went to press Wednesday. Van Kekerix said Koepsell was unable to tell his rescuers much about what had happened during the previous four days.

Williams said this isn't the first tough rescue the volunteer squad has had to perform--he recalled an instance years ago where a man had been trapped in the woods for about eight days. They've had calls deep in the Boundary Waters, too. He advises hunters, hikers or anyone venturing into the woods, even for a short trip, to be prepared.

"The boy scout motto is the best motto there is. I don't even go behind my house in the woods without a few basics," Williams said.