Independent filmmaker Dianne Whelan set off from Riverview on Monday to continue a journey that no one else has ever completed.
“I am trying to do the longest trail the world, which is the Trans Canada Trail,” she said. “It’s a 24,000-kilometre journey that connects the Atlantic, the Arctic and the Pacific Ocean.”
Whelan will operate her own cameras to record the trek as she spends two years hiking, snowshoeing and even canoeing the trail for a film she calls “500 DAYS IN THE WILD”.
Her cousin Ricky LeBlanc saw her off at the entrance to the Dobson Trail.
“She is the first one to do this. It’s like a new take on the trail to show our country,” he said.
Whelan, 50, is no stranger to adventure. She has already produced films at Mount Everest and in Canada’s Arctic Region.
She started her journey from Newfoundland about 140 days ago.
“I was looking for my next expedition after finishing the Everest film, and this has been in my imagination since the early ’90s when the government came up with the idea to build the longest trail in the world,” she said.
“I am at an age that I kind of believe that everything we need to know we have forgotten,. I don’t know if the things we need for sustainability on this Earth are going to be found in a lab and I don’t like the backup plan of moving to Mars, personally.”
With the hope of bringing nature and adventure to her fellow Canadians through film, she is making the journey alone, carrying everything she needs in a 60-pound pack.
“The most sacred place that I have ever been is when I am in nature,” she said. “Ever since I was a kid, when I am out here I feel a sense of being part of the whole.”
Whelan is wearing a GPS tracker clipped to her hip and is prepared to go days, or even weeks, without speaking to anyone.
“I talk to the animals, I talk to the birds and if I am really honest, I obviously talk to myself,” she said.
Whelan said her first brush with death came when paddling on the Bras d’Or Lake in Cape Breton. In strong winds and half a mile from the shore, she tried to paddle to land.
“I realized I am not going to make it,” she said. She was forced out into open water, convinced her boat would tip.
“By some good fortune or prayers, I managed to make it to the other side.”
She said she is grateful to be alive, but also humbled by the experience.
“It’s a good, gentle reminder that at the end of the day…there are a lot of forces around us that are a lot more powerful than we are.”