Elderly Man Searching for Artifacts Gets Lost in Freezing Maine Woods

by Caitlin Berard
(Staff photo by Brianna Soukup/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

On Friday morning, 90-year-old Mexico, Maine, resident James Thomas set out on a solo adventure, leaving a note for his family to explain his whereabouts. In it, he wrote that he was taking his metal detector to the woods in Franklin County, Maine. Though home to a mere 60 residents, Thomas hoped he would find a hotbed of historical artifacts thanks to Township E’s many old cellar holes and settlements.

His family was a little wary of the trip from the start. Mexico, Maine, is about 70 miles from Township E in Franklin County. This meant a three-hour car ride for James Thomas followed by an evening of hiking solo through the woods.

Then night fell, and panic truly set in – no one had heard from James since his note earlier that day. Unable to contact him, his family ventured to his campsite in Franklin County, where they found his truck. His ATV, however, was nowhere to be seen.

Hours passed, and when they were still unable to find James Thomas, the family finally contacted the police. Just after 11 PM on Friday night, the Maine Warden Service, as well as Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and Border Patrol, arrived on the scene and joined the search.

A few more hours went by, both rescue crews and Thomas’ family growing increasingly distressed, until finally, Game Warden Alex Maxsimic found a lead.

Rescuers Find Elderly Hiker in Maine Woods

At around 2:30 AM on Saturday morning, Maxsimic discovered James Thomas’ ATV near a logging road several miles from his camp and truck. Still, however, Thomas was nowhere in sight.

Venturing deeper into the Maine woods, Maxsimic, now joined by Game Warden Chad Robertson and a K9 named Storm, eventually found James Thomas. It was after 3 in the morning and the elderly adventurer was on the brink of hypothermia. Miraculously, however, he was otherwise unharmed.

According to James Thomas, he was searching the woods for artifacts. When he decided to leave, however, he couldn’t find his ATV. He then set off in search of his truck but didn’t have a working flashlight and quickly got lost.

Mark Latti, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, later explained the events of the night in a press release.

“James was found uninjured but was very cold, as he did not have winter clothing on,” he wrote. “James had spent some time searching for objects in the area with his metal detector earlier in the day, but was unable to find his ATV when he attempted to return to his truck that evening.”

“He then decided to walk to his truck,” Latti continued. “But without a working flashlight, he became lost in the woods while doing so. The temperature was 38 F, and it was very windy. Game wardens warmed him up in a patrol truck and transported him back to his family.”