May 28, 2018
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Lost hiker recovering from surgery

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — An Ohio hiker lost for three days in Baxter State Park is in fair condition and recovering from surgery to fix his shattered left kneecap at Eastern Maine Medical Center, officials said Tuesday.

Michael Hays, 41, of Stow, Ohio, went into surgery at about 8:30 a.m. after being transferred from Millinocket Regional Hospital. He was out of surgery and back in his room Tuesday afternoon, said Paul Hays, who spoke to his older brother from his house in Ohio.

“He sounded like someone recovering from surgery,” Paul Hays said during a telephone interview early Tuesday evening. “He is medicated right now, so I am sure he is not in a lot of pain. It was very brief, our conversation. He had to speak to someone else and he hasn’t gotten back to me yet.”

Michael Hays ended the longest Baxter search in 40 years when he stepped into a small clearing in steep, densely wooded terrain a half-mile south of Helon Taylor Trail and waved an orange poncho at a passing Maine Forest Service helicopter on Monday, Park Director Jensen Bissell said.

Hays had last been seen by other hikers Friday afternoon on Mount Katahdin’s Knife Edge Trail, a narrow, rocky ridge between 4,919-foot Pamola Peak and 5,267-foot Baxter Peak. The search began Saturday after he did not sign out on a trail register and rangers found his rental car in a parking lot.

Hays’ rescuers, Baxter State Park Ranger Rob Tice, Maine Forest Service Ranger-Pilot Lincoln Mazzei and forest service aviation mechanic Ron Adams, found him at about 3 p.m. Monday.

Doctors were concerned Tuesday about possible infection from a puncture wound to Hays’ knee, in addition to the shattered kneecap, but he was in good shape otherwise, said Rich Hohman, a friend who happened to be hiking in Maine at the same time as Hays.

“Physically, if it wasn’t for the knee, he would’ve been able to leave the hospital,” Hohman said. The two work at the headquarters of Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores in Ohio.

Besides extensive coverage in Ohio and in Maine, Hays’ story attracted telephone calls Tuesday from a producer at the “CBS Morning Show,” but his brother declined to be interviewed.

Bissell was pleased that the search ended well for Hays, but reminded other hikers Monday that Hays could have been found within six hours had he stayed on a trail. Hays also should not have expected his cell phone to work within the 200,000-acre park, Bissell said.

On Tuesday, Bissell said he hadn’t spoken to Hays after his rescue.

For Hays, the injury cut his vacation short. In addition to Mount Katahdin, Hays intended to hike the tallest peak in New Hampshire, 6,288-foot Mount Washington, and in Vermont, 4,350-foot Mount Mansfield, Hohman said.

Attempts to contact Hays in his hospital room were unsuccessful on Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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