Learning to Love Solitude (and Hate Oatmeal) on a 15,534-Mile Canadian Trek

Dianne Whelan, an independent Canadian filmmaker, set off on the Trans Canada Trail in 2015. It is a recreational trail covering nearly 17,000 miles that runs along green paths, roads, and waterways, from the Atlantic to Pacific to the Arctic Ocean. Ms. Whelan (56), accompanied by her partner, parents, and friends, walked the final few feet to become first person to complete the trail, which connects all three oceans via land and water. 500 Days in the Wild will be her documentary about her six-year journey.Ms. Whelan was the director of documentaries about the base camp at Mount Everest as well as an expedition in the Arctic. She had been exposed to extreme climates. The Trans Canada Trail was a test of her mental strength and endurance. She had to paddle thousands of miles alone and encountered bears. Her journey took her to many places along the way, including stops in Indigenous communities where she worked with other artists. She has been doing this alone for the past year and a quarter, with Louisa Robinson as her partner. Louisa provided provisions.She took her canoe to shore on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia a few days before she finished the trail. This is where she usually resides, just north from Vancouver. Below are extracts from that conversation, which were edited for clarity.Why did you choose to complete the entire trail?The metaphor of the trail as an umbilical cord connecting us all was a great one for me as a storyteller. Everything we needed to know as a culture we had lost, at least in Western culture, was what I thought when I left. We had lost our connection with the web of life, and the future. It was an ecological pilgrimage, I said.