Meet the woman who completed the entire Trans Canada Trail, and filmed it all

Esteemed filmmaker and cinematographer Dianne Whelan dedicated six years to traversing the complete expanse of the Trans Canada Trail, spanning both land and water routes from coast to coast. Her remarkable journey was chronicled in her latest film, 500 Days in the Wild, now in theatres.

Timing was everything for Canadian filmmaker Dianne Whalen.

During a dark time in her life when it felt like the world just wasn’t making sense, she decided it was time to work on a new movie. 

“When I heard about the 'longest trail in the world', it seemed like a good idea. Like the perfect next film.” Whalen tells The Weather Network. 

And so on July 1st, 2015, Whalen started her journey from St. John’s, Nfld., to conquer the full 24,000 km of the Trans Canada Trail, the world's longest network of multi-use recreational trails. Initially aiming to finish in 500 days using various means like walking, biking, snowshoeing, paddling, and skiing, Whalen shifted gears on day 10 and opted for a more spontaneous day-to-day approach.

WATCH BELOW: A Sneak Peek of '500 Days in the Wild'

Six years later, on August 1st, 2021, Whalen arrived at Trails Point Zero in Victoria, B.C.

Whalen's epic journey of discovery, which she says has left her a bit wiser and more hopeful, is chronicled in her new documentary, 500 Days in the Wild.

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“I still rewatch my return into the traditional Songhees territory when I am welcomed to shore in the final scene of the film. The ending was a profound moment for me," she shares. "All I could think about was the thousands of people over the six years that were like, 'Do you need some water? Would you like a couch to sleep on? Would you like a shower?' With all those little random acts of kindness, I could visually see a thousand hands reaching out as I was coming into shore.“

Trans Canada Trail path

Map depicts Whalen's path (The Weather Network)

She says the goal of the film was to write a new story for her vision of Canada through both reconciliation and connection with the Indigenous peoples she met along the way, as well as reconnecting and finding herself. 

You can watch the film, in partnership with Elevation Pictures, in theatres across the country now or on Paramount+ in Canada starting on March 15.

To learn more about Whalen's extraordinary journey, watch the video that leads this article.