The daughters of an Ontario couple missing for a week in B.C.’s Southern Interior were saying their final goodbyes to their parents when they received the call they were alive.

Lynne Carmody and Rick Moynan set off for a day hike on June 22nd from Cathedral Lakes Lodge near Keremeos, about 100 km south of Kelowna, but never returned.

Seventeen search and rescue crews from as far away as Nelson, Squamish and Comox participated in the monumental effort to find the couple, who are in their 60s. At the peak of the search, there were 52 people at base camp and 40 members scouring the mountain by foot and helicopter.

On Sunday, the pair emerged from the wilderness exhausted, bug-bitten and bruised – but suffering no major injuries. They were air lifted to Penticton Regional Hospital and treated for dehydration but have since been released.

Their miraculous exit from the backcountry was well-timed. After a week of intensive searching turned up no sign of the pair, the search effort was being scaled back.

On Sunday, search members flew the hikers’ daughters by helicopter to one of the last places the couple had been seen, so they could say their final goodbyes.

They were sharing stories about their parents on the mountaintop when a radio call came in to say the girls’ parents had been found.

“We took a group photo and it was literally two minutes [after] that they radioed in that they were located,” daughter Lea Carmody said.

Asked how she felt when she heard the news: “You can’t put it into words.”

Sara Moynan, Rick’s daughter, said she “just dropped to the ground” when she found out.

“I was overwhelmed with emotions. It was just unbelievable. I started hugging everyone up top. The whole thing was so surreal,” Moynan told reporters.

The pair was found within three kilometres of the searchers’ base camp, and it’s believed they somehow wandered off their intended hiking route.

Fortuitous timing

Carmody and Moynan, prepared only for a day hike, survived for seven days by “hunkering down” near a stream and building a lean-to shelter to sleep in.

Searchers say the couple was able to survive for a week in the wilderness only because they had ample access to fresh water.

“[They’re] very fortunate,” said Paul Berry of Comox Search and Rescue.

“They got down into one of the drainages which people tend to do when they’re lost, they go downhill. And that’s what happened in this case they went downhill well out of the search area, hunkered down into heavy bush alongside a stream, built a shelter and waited for rescue.”

Lea Carmody described the hikers as “experienced outdoors people” who found themselves on a difficult trail and got turned around.

She said they “had no idea of the magnitude” of the whole search operation, but stayed positive and “just knew what they had to do.”

Between them, the couple was carrying two oranges, three cookies and nine Tic Tac mints, which they rationed day by day. They returned to base camp carrying one single mint.

Carmody said the pair’s energy kept building in the last couple of days, which she chalks up to an adrenaline surge from hearing and seeing rescue helicopters nearby.

“They knew they had to get out,” she said.

Rick’s daughter says she doesn’t believe the pair has come to terms with their brush with death in the backcountry.

“My dad kind of gave me a wave and a kiss and I was like ‘are you kidding me?’ It was unbelievable,” she said.

Sara Moynan said the next present she gets the hikers will be a GPS device with an emergency button.

“The next time they go hiking we’ll know where they are,” she said.