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Missing sisters found in California forest speak out about their survival, rescue from the woods

The girls, ages 5 and 8, ate granola bars, drank water off leaves and focused on "happy thoughts" after getting lost in the woods.
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/ Source: TODAY

Two young sister who went looking for adventure outside their Northern California home got a little more than they expected.

The girls, 8-year-old Leia Carrico, and her 5-year-old sister, Caroline, ended up spending the next two nights in the cold, rainy woods, surviving off granola bars, “happy thoughts,” and faith that their dad would eventually find them.

It started Friday when the girls asked their mother to go on a walk — and refused to be deterred when she told them no. The sisters wandered out anyway from their rural Humbolt County home.

“Leia wanted a little tiny more adventure but I wanted more,” Caroline admitted.

Safely back home, Caroline and Leia Carrico get playful around their mom. TODAY

The girls ate granola bars they had brought and drank water droplets off leaves, using survival skills they learned from 4-H wilderness training.

“It was starting to drizzle so I knew we had to find shelter fast,” Leia said. They found it among the bushes.

“We found shelter, a tree branch, close to the ground and we had my sister’s rain jacket to keep us warm.”

But temperatures dropped close to freezing at night in the woods, which is known locally as mountain lion country.

“My sister cried the whole night so I told her to think happy thoughts of our family,” Leia said.

More than 200 volunteers searched for the girls over the weekend. The sisters said they could see rescue helicopters circling above so they stayed in the same spot, near a huckleberry bush they used for cover overnight, and waited for help.

"I'm the proudest mom. I raise super heroes," Misty Carrico said of her girls.TODAY

Search crews eventually got a break when they spotted foot prints and food wrappers that eventually led them to the girls.

Leia admitted she had felt scared despite the brave front she tried to put on for Caroline.

“I felt a little nervous — and a little afraid, but I knew dad would find us eventually,” she said.

The girls' mother said she had only turned her eyes away from the girls for just a few minutes, but it was enough for them to wander far beyond her reach. The sisters were found about six miles away from home.

“I'm just so happy to have my girls back,” said their father, Travis Carrico. “It really is a miracle.”