Courtesy of Dianne Whelan
Dianne Whelan will soon become the first person to complete The Great Trail.

The award-winning filmmaker completed the majority of the expedition solo.

J.D. Simkins  – July 26, 2021

Dianne Whelan is expected to pull her canoe onto the shore of Victoria, British Columbia, on Aug. 1, the long-awaited culmination of a 17,000-mile journey along the seemingly interminable route known throughout North America as The Great Trail.

The award-winning filmmaker’s remarkable expedition, the majority of which she completed solo, began in Newfoundland in 2015. Over the six years that followed, Whelan cross-country skied, snowshoed, mountain biked, hiked, and canoed through Canada’s vast and unforgivable network of plains, lakes, and forests that form a bridge between the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans.

Whelan’s historic trek will subsequently become the subject of an upcoming book and documentary of the same name, which she produced. 500 Days in the Wild is a story of trading in the rigors of society for the natural world, honoring its Indigenous people, and pursuing inclusivity and environmental awareness. The herculean project comes on the heels of Whelan’s award-winning documentaries This Land, which chronicles an expedition to Canada’s northernmost peninsula, and 40 Days at Base Camp, a story of one team’s pursuit of the Mt. Everest summit while analyzing the impact of climate change on the world’s highest peak.

Whelan on Lake Superior

Courtesy of Dianne Whelan

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The final leg of Whelan’s journey, meanwhile, a 300-mile paddle she launched earlier this month from Vancouver, will take her through territories steeped in the cultural history of the Coastal Salish People, including the Squamish, Sechelt, Nanoose, Snuneymuxw, and Tseycum First Nations, “people on this land whose ancestors date back 10,000 years,” Whelan said in a release.

Whelan had her sights set on acknowledging the history of wrongs committed against Canada’s Indigenous peoples from the moment she stepped off in 2015 from Newfoundland, one of the country’s Atlantic Provinces where approximately 60,000 people identify as members of the Mi’kmaq First Nations.

“I was taught there is no word for forgiveness in the Mi’kmaq language, the literal translation of the word means ‘to make things right,'” she said. “I hope what I have carried in my heart on this journey and the art made from it will be a ripple on those healing waters.”

A 500 Days in the Wild official Instagram account will document the final stretch of Whelan’s journey, while the book and film (of the same name) are expected to be released in 2023 and 2024, respectively.

“The purpose of 500 Days in the Wild is to inspire reverence for this Earth again,” Whelan said in a release. “A new mindset; a journey of reconciliation—learning, listening, and letting go. At its very heart, that’s what this film is all about.”

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