Four days in a heavily wooded area and thick brush took a toll on Cheryl Sanderson's legs. (Ryan Pilon/CBC)

The Prince Albert woman who was lost for four days in the woods has returned home, and is thankful to those who looked for her and found her.

Cheryl Sanderson, 38, was released from hospital Tuesday night. She was treated for dehydration and minor cuts and scrapes following a four-day ordeal in dense bush and woods northeast of Prince Albert. She was located Monday afternoon by searchers.

Sanderson said she had simply set out, on the previous Thursday, to take a drive in the countryside to calm herself and clear her mind after learning that her husband of 22 years was facing a fatal illness.

"My head was just spinning, my heart was aching," Sanderson told CBC News Wednesday. "I needed to go for a ride."

Her drive took her to a rural area near Weirdale, Saskatchewan.

Blacked out

She made a mistake,however, by taking too many sleeping pills and pain killers, to reduce her anxiety. She remembers she laid down in the bush, confident that she had made note of her surroundings. But the mixture of pills combined with the stress led to her blacking out and when she came to she had no idea where she was.

"I felt like I was scared and I should just stay in one spot, somebody will find me," Sanderson said. Unfortunately, her mind was playing tricks on her and she wandered away from her car.

For four days, Sanderson tried to find her way back to the road and her car. Wearing only a light dress, her legs were cut from the brush.

She was unable to make a fire and had no food or water.

"The first night I screamed for water," she remembered. "I thought I could hear people and I said 'Give me water, I need water.'"

To battle the cold nights, she stuffed her clothes with grass to trap her body warmth.


Cheryl Sanderson, back home with her family: Her children, from left, are Carrie, Casey and Marvin. (Ryan Pilon/CBC)

She was reported missing on the Thursday and RCMP and family and friends were scouring different areas looking for her.

The search intensified on Sunday night when the Sanderson's car was found on the side of the road south of Weirdale.

Sanderson said, the next day, she awoke thinking she would be found that day.

"I woke up in the morning, and it was just beautiful, the sunrise," she said. "And I say, 'Today I'm going home.'"

She was located Monday afternoon about three kilometres from her car. She noticed a search plane that was scanning the area and ran into an open area to catch their attention.

"What I did was something I never want to do again ... take off my dress and wave it at them and then they finally seen me," she said, with a modest laugh.

Sanderson said the experience has given her an even deeper appreciation of those who went looking for her.

"It's comforting knowing there was so much people out there that can help me," she added. "I just didn't know how much I was loved. You don't feel it until something like this happens."

Her daughter, Carrie Sanderson, echoed that view noting that many people in the community stepped forward to help.

"We didn't know that we had that much support," she said. "We had people that we didn't even know at all calling us and saying we'll come and help find your mom. It was just giving us happiness that people cared about her too, and she needed to know so many people cared about her."

The searchers included family members and officers from the Nipawin and Smeaton RCMP detachments as well as the Civil Air Search and Rescue (CASARA) from Prince Albert and a specialized RCMP Search and Rescue Team, the police dog service from North Battleford and a traffic reconstructionist expert from Saskatoon.

With files from CBC's Ryan Pilon