An Ashland man whose car got stuck in the mud in the North Maine Woods survived by wrapping himself in a tarp and sipping rainwater from a towel, game wardens said.

A passerby, driving through the woods Saturday to view wildlife, spotted Carl Burke lying at the side of a dirt road near Togue Pond, about 16 miles in from the St. Francis gate.

Burke was wrapped in a blue tarp, Warden Sgt. Adrian Marquis said Thursday. He did not identify the passerby.

The driver quickly traveled to an area where cellphone service was available and called for help. Marquis and fellow game warden Nick Raymond, who happened to be working in nearby St. John, were able to reach Burke.

It was lucky for Burke that someone happened to be around. The road leads to the popular Deboullie Pond. Though it’s widely used during the summer, that’s not the case right now in mud season, Marquis said.  

It is unclear how long Burke, who is in his mid-60s, lay on the side of the road, but it was somewhere between five and seven days, according to the warden. Burke had pre-existing medical conditions that complicated the situation, but had a blanket and towel with him. He drank rain water by sucking it out of the towel.


When the wardens arrived, the road was too soft for an ambulance to travel to where Burke lay, so they transported him to a waiting Ambulance Service Inc. vehicle. The ambulance transported Burke to Northern Maine Medical Center for treatment.

Information on his condition was not immediately available.

“He was in pretty rough shape, severely dehydrated and hypothermic when we found him,” Marquis said. “He couldn’t really stand on his own.”

The driver came along at the right time, given Burke’s medical condition when he was found, the warden said.

The man had contemplated turning around and heading back out of the woods, he told the wardens. If he had done that, Marquis doesn’t know when anyone would have found Burke. 

Due to cool nights and the wet weather, it’s unclear how Burke survived that long, Marquis said.

“It’s hard to tell what any individual body can go through, and some people just have a will to survive,” he said.

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that the driver who found Burke had contemplated turning back.