She’s not sporting any sponsor logos, has no convoy of media-driven supporters riding behind, yet somehow even in the wilderness of Newfoundland, people manage to find Dianne Whelan. The lone adventurer, filmmaker, photographer and author from Pender Harbour has met many helpful people in the past two months along the Trans Canada Trail during her marathon hike, bike, paddle journey called 500 Days in the Wild.
“I’ve had countless random acts of kindness,” she said during a phone interview with Coast Reporter last week. Strangers have invited her in for a meal, offered her used tents (she’s lost a few), told her their stories, or stopped their ATVs on the trail to ask if she needs anything.
The TV and print media has also found her, but she did not seek them out.
“I didn’t want to be shiny, new and flashy out there,” she said. “That’s not what Canada is all about.” This is a very understated Canadian-style trip that seems to be engaging people through their hearts.
She has taken time out from the hike to go cod fishing, work with an indie filmmaker to document her journey and to visit the Newfoundland Aboriginal Network. Along the way Whelan has been saying prayers for the murdered Aboriginal women as her own act of reconciliation, and she found a warm welcome from the women at the network.
“I’m all about healing and moving forward,” she said.
Whelan suspects she has pushed her bike more than she rode it along the crushed rock trail. The tires have caught more than a few times and pitched her over the side.
“I’m bruised but my spirit is good,” she said. Going off the trail is not an option – for one thing Newfoundland is mostly bog or rock, she found. But also because Whelan is dedicated to this trip – she wants to stay faithful to the trail. It represents 23,000 kilometres of connection for Canadian communities from the Atlantic to the Pacific and on to the Arctic.
As you read this she will be canoeing on mighty Bras d’Or Lake in Cape Breton – a 350 km trip along a vast inland estuary.
A typical day on the trail might consist of four to six hours of travelling. She wakes with the first light, makes coffee and writes in her journal. Since wild animals feed at dawn and dusk she does not set out at that time – except to capture a photo, like the picture of the three moose she took one morning. By the time she cleans the breakfast dishes, packs and filters water, it’s late in the day. “I never let myself rush. I’m mindful and stay grounded.” When she sets out she might travel only 20 or 30 km and she will stop by 5 p.m. to find a dry, flat spot for camping. After boiling water and writing a few notes, she’s in bed early and sleeping well.
“I haven’t had one moment of fear on the trail,” she said.
The GPS signal she carries increases her safety and allows us to follow her journey on her website. Go to www.500daysinthewild.com and take the time to read about the author and her views on art, then turn to the blog entries. They are funny and touching and will likely end up in a book at the end of her journey. Then go to the live map section of the website to make a donation – the money goes toward producing the indie film and it comes from grassroots support, not corporate sponsors. Local support started last March with a big fundraising event in Gibsons put on by Charlene SanJenko’s PowHERhouse. Whelan is still grateful.
Once you make a donation you’ll receive a password that will allow you to track her progress on the live map. Send her a message and some of that good Sunshine Coast love.