John Lind had lost his way on an unfamiliar ATV trail after he left Hoyt Lakes bound for Aurora last month.
So the 77-year-old was off the main trail when an accident threw him from his vehicle and left him hopelessly mired in mud up to his chest.
Dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, he remained marooned in that mud pit throughout a mid-September night while heavy rains passed through the area.
After 20 hours, signs of hypothermia were setting in and his situation seemed grim. That's when two DNR officers arrived.
And one of them told Lind they were there to check his ATV license – a joke which Lind says was actually quite funny at the time.
The wisecracking officer was Sean Williams of Ely who, along with Marc Hopkins of Tower, was honored with the DNR Lifesaving Award on Monday, the Department announced.
Searchers had already been over the main ATV trail between Hoyt Lakes and Aurora but Williams and Hopkins noticed a faint offshoot and followed it, the DNR says.
Col. Ken Soring, who directs the DNR's enforcement division, credited the officers' "observation skills and willingness to take the path less travelled" for saving someone who may not have survived another night in the elements.
Lind agreed, saying the officers took off their jackets to warm him up, adding "Their training saved my life."
The DNR says Lind indicated that once his ATV is repaired he plans to get back on it. "But I'm not riding alone anymore," he said.