TUCSON, Ariz. (KSAZ) - Sporting the now-damaged boots that show the marks of her journey, 72-year-old Ann Rodgers stands healthy and smiling.
"They kept me warm the entire time," she said.
On March 31st, she became stranded in the wilderness of the Fort Apache Reservation.
"I hiked the next day with the dog up a mesa, to try to get cell phone communication again," she said. "There was nothing. No power poles, no signs of vehicles, ranch, anything out there. So I realized I was in a situation I needed to change quickly."
She ventured off in hopes of finding help; drinking pond water, eating plants, and using survival skills she'd learned over the years, all with her dog "Queeny" by her side.
"She found the right game trails, or cow path to follow through the stick brush, the trees and such, along the riverside," she said.
Three days after she went missing, search crews found her car and her cat. After six days with hardly any luck, ground crews spotted footprints that led Arizona Department of Public Safety pilot Lowell to something else.
"We saw the elk skull, so I brought the helicopter down to a hover and as I was looking at it, I realized she had made a help sign out of rocks and sticks," he said.
The skull, Ann correctly assumed, would catch anyone's attention and a few miles away, she was her bag in every direction and jumping up and down.
"It was like seeing a Hail Mary pass for a touchdown," Lowell said. "I did not think that we were going to find her alive."
She got into the helicopter to find a still-stunned group of first responders.
"I looked back at her and her face was just covered in black soot and she was smiling and laughing," Lowell said.
Grateful she and her pets survived what many are calling an unbelievable ordeal.