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Missing River Forest hiker tells story of survival in Montana wilderness

The suburban native who was missing in Western Montana says she felt like “an idiot” for getting lost.

23-year-old Madeline Connelly told KTMF in Montana that she “got lost” and called it “a huge mistake that it ended up being seven days.”

Madeline was seen last Thursday when she went for a hike and overnight camp-out with her dog in the Great Bear Wilderness area. She had stopped in Montana to visit family on her way to Alaska, where she planned to take a job running a bakery.

Madeline said she knew something was wrong the first night and realized she was in the wrong place.  She says she went swimming and then “took a wrong turn.”

“I got lost,” she said.

Connelly says she spent the days sleeping and hiking.  She and her dog also rested for about two days, sleeping under trees. She survived without food and by drinking water from the streams. It's estimated that Connelly hiked about 10 miles a day.

Madeline and her dog were found Wednesday by a search and rescue team.  KTMF says she was found about five miles from her car.  Madeline says she thought she might make it out Wednesday and get to her uncle’s house.  She was unaware of the search efforts.

“I’m so grateful.  This is completely unexpected,” she told KTMF.   “Thank you to everyone that has been searching day and night”

Her parents John and Laura had flown to Montana to help in the search.  Laura calls Madeline's rescue the “best Mother’s Day gift ever."