TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A 72-year-old Tucson woman and her dog survived nine days in the wilderness of the White Mountains thanks to her quick thinking and survival skills.
Ann Charon Rodgers left Tucson on March 31 to travel to Phoenix to visit her grandchildren, Arizona Department of Public Safety said.
Rodgers became lost and ended up on a remote stretch of a back-country road near Canyon Creek on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, ran out of gas and depleted the charge in her hybrid vehicle.
The first night, she spent the night in the car with her dog and cat.
"I got up the next morning hoping something would pass by - anybody, anything, even a steer. I didn't care, just anything alive," she said.
With no signs of life around her, she ventured up a mountain, hoping to see signs of life, and to get a cell phone signal.
"I could see where there might be humanity, some power pole anything a ranch, I didn't care. But [there was] nothing," she said.
Rodgers said she is always prepared. She carries food water in her car, but after several days, she was out of resources and went into survival mode.
"I was eating desert plants. My dog was, too, diving into clovers and finding all the places that were the easiest to go," she said. "She was my pathfinder on that journey."
Rodgers said she could see planes and helicopters flying by and knew she had to get their attention.
"I found a elk carcass bleached white, dead for a long time, 12 point rack. I brought it on the sandy beach, pointed it to a sign [that] said 'help' made out of white stones and sticks," Rodgers said.
On April 9, a tribal Game and Fish officer found Rodgers' dog walking out of the Canyon Creek area.
An air crew spotted Rodgers' distress signal and found a hand-written note on a rock, indicating Rodgers had run out of food and water and was proceeding down the canyon.
The rescue team discovered a shelter abandoned by Rodgers and found her a little further down the canyon standing next to a signal fire and waving to the helicopter.
It was the sound she had been waiting for, the helicopter coming down to rescue her.
"When the rescue police helicopter landed I just sat down and bawled," she said.
DPS said Rodgers was suffering from exposure, but was in fair condition and able to walk to and board the helicopter with little assistance. She was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Payson for treatment, but has been released.
Rescue crews have her cat, she said, and she'll be reunited with him on Friday.