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River Forest hiker found safe after missing 6 days in Montana

RIVER FOREST, Ill. -- A 23-year-old woman who had been missing in Montana for six days has been found safe, her family tells WGN.

River Forest native Madeline Connelly was seen last Thursday when she went for a hike and overnight camp-out with her dog in the Great Bear Wilderness area. The dog was also found alive.

Back in her home town, family, neighbors and friends gathered to celebrate the news of the woman they describe as the personification of a free spirit.

Michael Connelly, Madeline's uncle, says Madeline was responsive when she was rescued.

“Her first words to the people who found her were, ‘Can I hike out with you?’  And they were like, ‘No you are going to be taking a helicopter to a hospital.’ he said.  “But she's in great shape. They are taking her to the hospital just to check her out.”

The 23-year-old Madeline is the oldest of four girls. Her parents John and Laura are in Montana already and her sisters are flying out today.

“She's probably hungry and dehydrated.  Mogi is fine and she's fine,” Connelly said.

Madeline stopped in Montana to visit family on her way to Alaska to take a job running a bakery.

With spring, hibernating bears have left their dens in Montana and bear and cub tracks were reported in the area where she went hiking.

Madeline reportedly told her rescuers she got lost after taking a wrong turn and walked at least 10 miles a day trying to get out of the mountains.

Details of what happened are still forthcoming.

“If I know Madeline, she'll be going on to Alaska,” Connelly said.  “She probably wants to get in her car and go but she'll come home and thank all the people in the community that have been praying.”