updated 6/18/2008 3:53:36 PM ET 2008-06-18T19:53:36

Two women missing in Denali National Park and Preserve were located alive and well Wednesday.

Backpackers Abby Flantz, 25, of Gaylord, Minn., and Erica Nelson, 23, of Las Vegas were located in the Dry Creek drainage in the eastern portion of the search area, National Park Service spokeswoman Kris Fister said.

Park officials were briefing women's families when the cell phone of Nelson's mother rang, Fister said.

The woman expressed astonishment because caller ID indicated it was her missing daughter on the phone.

Park officials thought the women were not carrying a cell phone. However, the caller was indeed Nelson, who reported the women were well and in the Dry Creek area.

A helicopter was dispatched to pick up the women. Fister had few additional details.

"We are thrilled," Fister said.

The backpackers left Thursday from the Savage Creek checkpoint just 15 miles from the park entrance, intending to return the next day.

They were spotted by other hikers a mile off the road before they vanished.

When the women did not show up for work Saturday at Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, a hotel outside the park, they were reported overdue and the search began.

100 square miles searched
Searchers scoured a 100-square mile search area that includes dense alder and willow, some black spruce forest, but also miles of open tundra.

They found no indication that the women had left the park but were puzzled that no clothing or gear had been found, or that the women had not somehow signaled the three helicopters or park airplane that flew overhead.

Officials said it was unlikely the women merely decided to extend their camping trip. Nelson was scheduled to fly Sunday night to Houston so she could be maid of honor in her sister's wedding.

The backpackers had a permit to camp in the Mount Healy wilderness unit and their intended destination required a crossing of the Savage River.

Crossing park rivers in swift, cold water can be dangerous and searchers looked for indications of trouble along the banks of the Savage.

Searchers found evidence of grizzly bears in the area but said an animal attack was less of a threat.

The Park Service on Wednesday brought in additional search and rescue teams from Grand Teton, Mount Rainier, Sequoia-Kings Canyon, and Yosemite national parks.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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