An Alaska woman is lucky to be alive after authorities say she became lost in the wilderness for two days and was charged by multiple bears.
Fina Kiefer told NBC affiliate KTUU that she's feeling incredibly fortunate to have survived the dramatic ordeal, which happened while she was hiking Alaska's Pioneer Ridge Trail.
"It really makes you aware of what you have," Fina, 55, told the outlet from her home on Thursday. "I was fighting to see my family again. I was fighting to see my husband and my daughter and my son."
According to the Alaska Department of Public Safety (ADPS), Fina was first reported missing by her husband - who was identified by KTUU as Steve Kiefer - around 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday.
The report was made close to 12 hours after Fina left home to go on the solo hike, Steve told KTUU.
Though Steve was reportedly in contact with his wife several times throughout the evening, he noted to the outlet that Fina had mentioned that the trail was taking longer than expected.
"I didn't realize how vigorous the trail was until I was actually on the trail," Fina later explained to KTUU. "And the second mistake I made was not staying on the trail, trying to go on my own - making my own trail down. And by the time I realized I wasn't going to make it to the trailhead, the parking lot, my battery of my cell phone was dwindling."
Around 1 a.m., Steve told KTUU he called 911 after receiving a final text from his wife that said she had been charged by multiple bears and discharged her bear spray.
"Shortly after requesting assistance, the hiker stopped responding to phone calls and text messages," the ADPS wrote in their incident report.
Speaking to KTUU after the encounter, Fina said she initially thought she was passing a moose while making her way off the mountain - but very quickly realized the situation was more serious.
"Once he turned his head, and we both looked at each other, I knew it was a bear," she recalled to the outlet. "At that very moment, I had to make a decision."
"I thought, 'Is this the way I'm going to die, God?' " she went on. "He's charging me and he's going [from] 50 yards to 25... I stood my ground, grabbed my bear spray and then I had to look at him while he's charging at me. By the time he came about me, about 25 feet, that's when ... I yelled 'Hey!' And then I sprayed and then he stopped."
"After that, he just was so freaked out," Fina added to CBS affiliate KTHV. "He turned around and ran with the second bear down the mountain, across the creek onto the other side."
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Following Steve's 911 call, officials launched a search for Fina by ground and air, according to the incident report.
Over the next two days, they tirelessly searched the area while Fina - whose phone had died - managed to survive by eating cranberries and snow, building a fire with water-proof matches and drinking creek water, KTUU reported.
Fina also noted to the outlet that she witnessed the search helicopters overhead several times and heard search dogs in the distance, but officials were unable to see or hear her through the thick brush, even with the fire she had lit.
"I was praying a lot," Fina recalled to KTUU.
"I said, 'Lord you've gotta talk to me,'" she added to KTHV. "And he said, 'You've gotta get off the mountain.'"
By Wednesday, Fina took matters into her own hands and decided to follow a creek down off the mountain, according to KTUU.
Around that time, authorities had called off search efforts for the day "due to deteriorating weather in the area," the ADPS wrote in their incident report.
Luckily, the creek Fina followed ultimately led her to a home with a backyard, KTUU reported. However, when she rang their doorbell, nobody answered, according to the outlet.
"I could have kissed their lawn," she recalled to KTUU of the moment, before deciding to walk towards the roadway for help.
"Four vehicles passed me," Fina continued to the outlet. "And I knew I had to get back to the parking lot because my vehicle was there, and I could get all my wet clothes off and get in my vehicle and get warm."
Eventually, Fina was spotted walking out of the woods by a search and rescue team member, who had been passing the area, according to the ADPS.
When he stopped his car, Fina told KTHV that he said, "You cannot believe how many people are looking for you."
ADPS officials confirmed that Fina was transported to a Mat-Su area hospital with injuries after the rescue. Her husband told KTUU that she was released later that night.
As she continues to recover from the traumatic incident, Fina said she was grateful to all the first responders who searched for her, but was especially happy to reunite with her family.
"It makes me be so happy that I'm able to hug them again," she told KTUU. "Because nothing else matters if you don't have that."
"This has taught me how to appreciate everything 'cause life is just too short," she added to Today. "I'm so thankful to be alive so that I can hug and love my family again."