29 February, 2024

Dianne Whelan’s Documentary Is a Story of Connection and a Case for Support

Dianne Whelan in a field with a camera

Traversing 24,000 km of trails purely by foot, bike and paddle could easily be thought of as “conquering” nature. But that’s not how Dianne Whelan sees it. 

I never looked at the Trans Canada Trail as something to be conquered. It’s something to be experienced and explored,” says Dianne, an award-winning filmmaker whose documentary, 500 Days in the Wild chronicles her six-year journey across the Trans Canada Trail. 

“One of the best things about the Trail is that it exists in every province and territory, it connects more then 15,000 communities. No matter what part of the country you’re in, you can explore the Trail and make a meaningful connection with nature.”    

Starting in Newfoundland in 2015, Dianne travelled across Canada from coast to coast to coast, reaching Victoria in July 2021. Her journey along 24,000 km of trail, most of which was completed solo, saw Dianne fight through exhaustion, extreme weather conditions, close encounters with wild animals – not to mention the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

But the journey was never about overcoming or conquering the Trail, no matter what challenges it presented. 

“As they say, it’s the journey, not the destination,” Dianne says in 500 Days in the Wild, which premiered at the Whistler Film Festival in December 2023. “This journey is about reconnecting and saying thank you to the ancestors of this land.” 

For Dianne, and so many others who engage with the Trail in their own ways, exploration led to connection. Not only a deep connection with nature, but human connections and connections to our past, present and future.  

“The Trans Canada Trail is a beautiful metaphor for something that connects us all. We are all connected to a large, living ecosystem,” she says. “On this journey, I wanted to pay my respect to Indigenous people on this land whose ancestors date back 10,000 years. There is so much we can learn from the respect and reverence these communities have for the land, and exploring the Trail is a powerful way to do that.” 

Dianne has referred to her journey on the Trail as “a search for lost wisdom.” And in finding that wisdom “from those that live close to the land,” she tells a story of connecting the “old way” that Indigenous communities have been following for generations – to our collective future.  

The Trans Canada Trail plays a vital role in connecting people across Canada to nature and to one another. It brings Canadians and visitors closer to nature, allowing them to make those deep connections that can only be found through exploration. It is the perfect environment in which to learn those lessons of the “old way” and apply them to work towards a sustainable, prosperous future.  

As an organization, Trans Canada Trail maintains and stewards Canada’s national trail, so people across the country have these kinds of opportunities for meaningful connection – whether they’re embarking on a cross-country adventure like Dianne’s, or a walk through their neighbourhood trail.

Since Dianne completed her journey, more than 4,000 km have been added to the Trans Canada Trail, and countless existing sections have been developed or improved with the support and participation of generous donors, volunteers and partners. 


Donate to the Trans Canada Trail to protect and strengthen this national trail network. With your support, we can maintain, steward and grow this incredible resource for generations to come. 

Thank you