Six years ago film maker Dianne Whelan set out to hike, bike, snowshoe, ski and canoe along The Trans Canada Trail (The Great Trail), the world’s longest recreational trail, connecting the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific Oceans. Recently, on August 1st, she finished on the shores of Ross Bay Beach in Victoria, B.C.—a journey, and film project, she first titled '500 Days in the Wild.'
It took Dianne longer than 500 days to complete this 24,000-kilometre trek, but the reasons she started out had not changed. Dianne labelled her journey an “ecological pilgrimage.” To her, it was a way to reconnect to the land; to give her hope, wisdom and a clearer understanding of how we can protect our natural world.
I first met Dianne two years into her journey. I was asked to interview her for Explore Magazine when she came through my neighbouring town of Peterborough, Ontario. She was delayed and sent me a text saying that she’d pitch her tent along the trail and catch up with me in the morning. I asked where exactly on the trail she had planned to stop. It was under the old railway bridge in the outskirts of the city. I immediately went to pick her up and bring her back to my place for the night, telling her that the bridge was a very sketchy place.
Dianne stayed at my place for three days. We chatted a lot. Dianne speaks like a poet, and her reasoning behind her journey across Canada was so inspirational. It wasn’t to be some type of athletic marathon-style test of endurance—something that I had seen starting to plague the backwoods more and more. There was an ever-increasing amount of people heading out on wilderness treks to become the fastest and strongest on record, never slowing down long enough to absorb what was out there. Dianne’s trip was to be a slow, methodical baptism back to nature; paying respect to Indigenous peoples along the way. She didn’t travel the fastest way. She traveled the most meaningful way. Dianne was the turtle, not the hare.
I kept in touch with Dianne while she continued across Canada. I helped her secure a Nova Craft canoe for her waterway section of the trail and a Snowtrekker tent for some of the winter portions. And I jumped with joy when I heard the news that my friend had finally reached her goal.
Check out my KCHappyCamper YouTube interview I did with Dianne Whelan just a few days after she completed The Trans Canada Trail.
And watch the two older interviews I did earlier on in her journey.