Dangling high above the treeline of the Great Bear Wilderness, Madeline Connelly shook with exhaustion and relief as she was winched into the waiting helicopter. Almost 300,000 acres of mountainous forest stretched out below her. Somehow, with no food or water or phone, alone except for her Jack Russell terrier, she’d survived.
Just one week earlier, the 23-year-old had been blissfully unaware of the ordeal awaiting her. Born and raised with three sisters just outside Chicago in the village of River Forest, Illinois, Madeline was a lover of the outdoors.
When a proposed North Dakota Access Pipeline threatened the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation last year, Madeline braved freezing temperatures to join the protest. At college in Arizona, she’d thrown herself into a three-week backpacking challenge, even exploring solo. Also no stranger to the state parks of Illinois, she’d happily camp out for days at a time.