Catching up with one of Yosemite’s best backpacking guides.
Name: William Heaps
Position: Gear and intern coordinator, veteran guide
Years guiding: 5
Hometown: Greeley Hill, CA
School/Degree: BYU/Recreation Management & Youth Leadership, Therapeutic Recreation
Certifications: Wilderness First Responder (WFR), CPR
How did you get into backpacking?
I was really into trail running in college and although I had backpacked in Scouts as a kid, I had never really taken the sport to heart.
I really got into backpacking after seeing the documentary Mile, Mile & a Half.
I could watch that all day. It is a beautiful work of art and depicts, quite well, the mistakes that new backpackers tend to make. It reminds me where I started.
What/who inspired you to become a guide?
My brother was probably my first inspiration. He encouraged me to be adventurous and explore the outdoors. Later on I found more inspiration from an amazing woman I met on Facebook, a random connection I made while researching to hike the JMT (John Muir Trail). She responded to one of my posts and told me she used to own her own guide service. Then she said something like, “I would hire you if I was still running trips,” and I couldn’t believe it. I took her statement to heart and started applying wherever I could.
What’s your spirit animal?
Mountain Goat. Not the big horn sheep, but the Mountain Goat.
What are your other outside hobbies/passions?
I love playing guitar and singing. I love mountain biking. I love swing dancing and country swing dancing.
Describe your favorite meal to cook on guide service in the backcountry.
I love cooking anything Indian. It is delicious and catches people off guard, but if you can add in some fresh veggies to the dish, it makes it like home.
Describe your favorite view in Yosemite.
There is nothing quite like Matterhorn Canyon. If you haven’t signed up for our Hidden Yosemite trip yet, leave this page and go sign up. You won’t regret it.
In your opinion, what are the most valuable services guides do for guests/kids?
We offer knowledge and company. We offer the ability to enjoy the activity you WANT to do while getting the information you WANT to learn. We also take out the hassle of logistics. We get permits, gear, food, maps, and plan everything needed. We take care of emergency medical care and know what things to point out and study the guidebooks in order to give you that information when you need it. Logistics can Rob an experience of fun, but we take care of that for you.
In your opinion, what’s the most important piece of gear for a guest to bring? What’s one thing they should leave behind?
Oh my goodness, please bring good shoes. If you like boots, bring them. If you like trail runners, bring them. Don’t try anything new if you don’t need to and don’t take the advice of a random REI employee. They don’t feel what you feel and your feet are your way in and out. I can carry an extra pack, I can cook, I can clean, I can do a lot of things, but I can’t walk the miles for you.
Describe one of your favorite memories with a Lasting Adventures guest.
Last year I had this awesome 17-year-old and his family. He is going to school to be a pastor, which was awesome for me because I am a religious fellow. We had a lot in common. He gave me a hard time all week because I carried such a big bag and by the end of the week he wanted to carry my bag.
I let him carry everything I carry and he took it like a champ. After that we became good friends.
As we came down the Mist Trail his hair was soaked and streaming down his face. He stops, deadpan, and looks at me and starts quoting The Notebook.
“You didn’t get the letters? I wrote you 365 days.”
He really made my day and my week and every time I get soaking wet while backpacking, instead of being upset, I start quoting the Notebook. We get some great people out there.