In 2010, I backpacked the Northern Traverse at Glacier National Park with my husband and four other friends.
When we got to the park, we needed a way to get to the trailhead, located in the remote northwest corner of Glacier not served by shuttles.
That’s how we found Jenny Dalimata. We found her at a restaurant where she was waiting tables in West Glacier. She seemed nice, so we gave her $100 bucks to drive us in our rental car to the trailhead and return it to a more centrally located parking lot. We crossed our fingers that she wouldn’t disappear, but we were pretty sure it would work out fine.
It did, of course. We got a friendly ride to the trailhead and we got the car back in the end.
Jenny and I have stayed in touch via social media since then. She’s an amazing athlete, who spends lots of time skiing, hiking and trail running in and around Glacier. She and her seven brothers grew up just outside of the park, and she “ran wild” as a kid.
When I headed back to Glacier this year, I tracked her down, and we met at a coffee shop in Bozeman before I caught my flight back to Austin. She still remembers that my backpacking buddies and I all ordered grilled salmon and huckleberry pie the night we met – and did it again after we finished our 65-mile trek.
“When you came out (of the back country) you were like ‘I’ll have another,’” she says.
These days, Jenny routinely makes a 30- to 50-mile runs through the park and other wilderness areas around Montana for fun and stress relief.
Since it’s grizzly country, she carries bear spray – and three times she’s had to deploy it, once when a grizzly bear charged her. (No worries, the griz spun and fled when she deployed.) Another time, while snow camping in the winter, she saw a wolverine near Lake Josephine.
That never happens on Austin trails, although I did meet a tiny black bear while trail running at Big Bend National Park one morning a few years ago.
The trails at Glacier, Jenny says, are pristine, nicely graded and well maintained, perfect for trail running.
“My heart lives there,” she says. “It’s powerful for me to be there.”
We shared tea and chatted about where our lives have taken us.
The thing about travel that makes it so special is the people you meet along the way. The randomness of who you cross paths with always amazes me. We met Jenny over salmon and pie, and 10 years later we saw each other again.
And I know I’ll see her the next time I get back to Montana.