Dianne Whelan is walking the Trans-Canada Trail, all 24,000 kilometres of it. The trail, officially renamed The Great Trail in September 2016, is a cross-Canada system of greenways, waterways and roadways that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic oceans. It’s the longest recreational trail network in the world.
Whelan, an award-winning filmmaker, has been sharing stories in photos, books and films for over 30 years. “I think my strength as a story teller is that I enjoy exploring all of these story telling mediums when I embark on a project,” she said. “Each is like a spoke on a wheel.”
She’s produced a number of award-winning documentaries, such as In This Land, filmed in the high Arctic, and Everest, 40 Days at Base Camp. Her current projects are 500 Days in the Wild, an independent feature film and a companion series called the Beacon Project with filmmaker and multi media artist Ann Verrall.
Whelan has been on walking the Trans-Canada Trail since 2015. “The trail is this beautiful symbol,” she said on her second year of the trip. “It’s an umbilical cord that connects us all. It has the story of this land wrapped into it. Not only is it the story of the people of this land; it’s the story of this land as well.”
Whelan appeared on CBC on July 15 from Calgary, and said that learning about her Indigenous ancestry has given her a greater sensitivity to Indigenous issues here in Canada. Her previous film project explored the connection of traditional indigenous knowledge and modern science.
“I’m gathering wisdom on this journey from a lot of elders, and I think that will be an important part of the discussion in terms of how we might want to move into the future,” she said. “Some of the most important things in life are not spoken of; they’re felt and experienced.”
Whelan took sharp aim at the Alberta governments decision to close a number of provincial parks and campgrounds, saying that “not everyone can afford a cabin on a lake” and that people need spaces that cost less than $50/night to sleep under the stars.