A rail line, a teepee and cooking a wild goose – The Trans Canada trail from Montreal to Ottawa

I sit today at a library on Queen street in Toronto writing this blog. It is September 10th, 2016. Last time I wrote I was in Montreal. It was the end of July.
So I will pick up the story from there.

It has been the hottest summer ever recorded here in Ontario and Quebec.  The kind of weather where you want to find a cool place in the shade close to water and lie down. So I was very happy when Brandon, one of my closest friends, offered to fly out from Victoria BC to help me out. The most urban section of the TCTrail is between Quebec city, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. Past here and I will begin moving North and it will be a long time before I see Winnipeg. While I rode my bike Brandon scouted out places for us to camp, got groceries, helped with the filming and played his guitar by the fire at night.  It is more difficult to find camping places on the trail when it is near large cities. In fact I like to joke that when I am out in the middle of the wild, people think I am an adventurer. But when I am camping close to a big city, people think I am homeless, which in itself has taught me much.


My favourite part of the trail through the Laurentian’s was arriving in Labelle. There a beautiful old train station has been beautifully renovated into a funky cafe called La Gare ( http://www.lagare-labelle.com) with healthy local food, a great expresso and good wine, an Auberge upstairs and camping. Hundreds of people were riding this section of trail and this small business was booming. This town is an inspiring model of how the Trans Canada trail can help revitalize a rural community. The space had character, history and oddly still did what it did even as a train station, welcome people to their community.


Not far from Labelle is La Minerve and although not directly on the trail, I went there to visit a friend, Dianne Ottereyes Reid and her partner Stephane. Till this point our friendship was based on phone calls and emails.

I met Dianne in March 2015 while researching traditional native healers for a French film company. Dianne is a Cree grandmother, a healer, a teacher, a journalist, a wise woman.

Nine months later in PEI while camping alone in the dark, I awoke to an owls conversation with the night, and I thought of her. I had no image of what she looked like, or what her life looked like, but it was her I thought of in that moment. So I sent her an email about the owl, and she invited me to visit when I was in the area.

I had butterflies in my stomach as we arrived and felt shy as I walked to the door of her house. But when the door opened there stood Dianne with a big smile, a warm hug, and within minutes said, “I have some things planned for you today” and giggled. Within minutes we were in the yard walking towards the pole frame of a traditional Cree cooking teepee. She was going to tell me what to do, she was going to be my teacher, as was her partner, Stephane, in wrapping the four canvas panels around the frame. She said it was like putting on a big skirt but I haven’t worn one of those in 30 years.


Once the panels and door were on the teepee my next instruction was in preparing the wild goose. For those who don’t know me – in high school I took Latin instead of cooking and sewing. But within minutes I was putting on those latex gloves and following both her and Stephane’s instructions, “Put your hands inside the cavity of the wild goose and then rub the blood over the surface of the goose” explained Stephane.  “ Makes the skin crispy,” Dianne said. The goose then needs to be cooked hanging beside a fire in the teepee.

As the fire cooked the goose, a wild storm began outside the tent, heavy rain, strong wind and thunder.


Our feast that night was in support of my journey. The next morning  we returned to the teepee for some drumming and songs to the four directions to guide me on this journey. She told me we are living at a time when many people are awakening to their roots, awakening to natural law, awakening to mother nature. She said this was an important part of the solutions and changes for mother earth and for people to embrace that.

It is very important that people take these journeys in that process and you are part of that, you are doing exactly that, creating the change.”

I cried as she spoke these words.  It is what is happening in North Dakota, it is happening in Bolivia, I have seen it  happening in Haida Gwaii, BC, in schools in Ontario, in Charlevoix, Quebec and with the Mik’maq in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.  It is happening all over the world. And this journey is but one very small ripple in that large sea of change that is unfolding right now on this land.

Days later Dianne wrote me

“ Good day Dianne,

Hope the journey is moving along! Just a note to tell you about last Friday’s weather in the region. La Minerve had major lines of pine trees blown down onto summer cottages and downtown had uprooted trees with the baseball field estrade landing on the roof of the community centre along with a tall metal street light pole blown down. We can see the trees uprooted in La Minerve and Mont Tremblant was also hit.

And where were we during that time?…inside a tipi! Imagine if our tipi was blown away we would have had a flying cooked goose!!! “



  1. Paula Howley September 11, 2016 at 10:56 am - Reply

    The people that you meet on this trip have sounded so lovely. I am so looking forward to seeing them on screen. I’m so proud of you for doing this, so excited for you, for all of us. Yes, there is an awakening- it is so important for us to remember the hope.

  2. Roger Cormier September 14, 2016 at 3:21 am - Reply

    Thank you, very rich and insightful
    Love it

  3. Samantha Callow September 14, 2016 at 7:54 am - Reply

    I love that you are doing this journey. Thank you for sharing your stories of such an adventure. I would have liked to meet you in Toronto and host you, but it sounds like you have already passed through….

  4. Keven Beaucage September 14, 2016 at 11:00 am - Reply

    Hi Dianne,
    I have been receiving your email updates and see now that you are in Toronto.
    We live in Kearney, Ontario north of Huntsville, east of Parry Sound and south of North Bay.
    The Trans Canada Trail is in our area and we wish to offer assistance with accommodation etc, when you get to our area which is the the Seguin Trail, a part of the Trans Canada Trail.
    Best wishes,

    • Dianne Whelan September 17, 2016 at 11:00 am - Reply

      Hi Keven. Thank you. If you send my your contact info to my email at 500daysinthewild@gmail.com I will follow up with you as i get near to where you are at. All my best dianne

  5. Billy Fog September 18, 2016 at 8:26 am - Reply

    After a good story I just need to sit in Awh. Digest it. Clear the tears. Breathing in those moments . Stitching in a story to my grey matter. Thank you! Dianne!

  6. Beth A. September 20, 2016 at 2:16 am - Reply

    Hi Dianne, Just found this blog somehow and I am completely charmed by this post!
    It looks like I have a Lot of catching up to do! I am sorry to say I only have a vague notion of The TCT but plan to look more closely! We are north of Regina about an hour. If your journey brings you near, please contact us!!! Safe Travels!!!

  7. Kristine September 24, 2016 at 9:39 am - Reply

    What an amazing journey you have embarked upon! And how moving it was to read about the kindness and beauty of people and this land. The movement especially of people reconnecting with the land and in turn their hearts moves me deeply. I wish you a gentle and beautiful journey and look forward to hearing more.

  8. Trudy Veitch September 28, 2016 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    Just discovered your blog in a sponsored ad on Facebook. So wish I had known about you when you were in Newfoundland. What an amazing adventure…hope it continues to go well.

  9. Evelyn von Almassy October 11, 2016 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    Hi Dianne, Will you be coming back to Haida Gwaii?

    I hope that you are well.

    Much love,


    • Dianne Whelan October 12, 2016 at 5:05 am - Reply

      Hi Evelyn
      Yes to complete the journey and the circle, after mile zero in Victoria in a few years i will return to Haida Gwaii
      much love to you as well

  10. Sue Gingras October 14, 2016 at 8:36 am - Reply

    Good day Dianne,

    I have to tell you that I had no idea this was going on until Mira posted your Journey on FB.
    I saw both movies “The Way” with Martin Sean and “Wild” with Reese Witherspoon .
    I was totally taken back by both…that I made it part of my bucket list to do the Bruce trail one day. To find out that you are venturing across Canada is awe-inspiring!! This is the ultimate human experience and emotional on so many levels…enjoy you beautiful journey!! With love ~light

  11. Susan October 25, 2016 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    It’s very amazing to read your blog and I will read all of it. My English is not so good so it’ll be a very slow reading……

    Have a good day
    Susan from China

  12. Dianne Reid October 26, 2016 at 2:30 pm - Reply

    Good evening Dianne!

    Just a note to say we are thinking of you! the month of the owl still going strong! toot a hoot! from La Minerve! Lots of love your way…!!!
    Dianne & Stephane

  13. Rebecca November 18, 2016 at 6:30 am - Reply

    Hello Dianna,

    I am writing from China. We met on the air from Vancouver to Toronto in September. Remember! You are so impressed me with you brave and latent. Your story is very touching. You are a great woman at all. The film is creating a new image of nowadays life. .
    I am preparing my courage to do the similar thing like you which we called BiGu (Several days without eating in the wild)…

    Just want to say hello and be safe!

    Welcome your journey to China if possible and I will do all my best to assist you.

    All the best,



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