This USA Adventure Will Give You Instant Wanderlust

Willem van den Heever is one of our favourite young South Africans because of his film making ability and pioneering vision that has taken him to prestigious film festivals abroad. We’ve featured him before and learnt a lot from him during that exchange. Willem has recently returned from America and I asked him to narrate his incredible journey that spanned months. He spent a lot of time hiking through scenic and less-traveled routes. Follow his journey with us.

New York


“My journey started in mid-January in New York; little did I know one of the biggest snow blizzards in history was about to hit the city. Despite the cold and three cancelled flights, it turned the city into a ghost town and made for perfect photo opportunities.”



“From New York I flew to Seattle, WA (still my favourite city) from where I would start making my way down to the Mexican boarder on the southern most point of the West Coast.”



“Early one morning I took the Greyhound bus to Portland from where I would start hitchhiking. In Portland I got the opportunity of meeting one of my biggest inspirations and most talented photographers out there, the legendary Ryan Muirhead. Not only is he a great photographer, but he’s also an all-round, down-to-earth guy who is full of so many stories and ideas to share.”

San Francisco

“After waiting about 2 hours I got picked up and got into downtown Portland. From there I waited about another 3 hours before eventually getting a ride all the way to San Francisco with two college students. It was an 11 hour drive with only one quick stop for gas, but with all the marijuana smoke in the car it felt like 2. It was a crazy drive, but I’m forever thankful for the two students who not only gave me a ride, but even offered me their bed when I had to spend 2 days in San Francisco due to a lack of lifts out.”

Los Angeles

“I eventually gave up and took a Greyhound to the crazy and filthy city of Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, the only place you will still find real stories and true street culture is in the alleys. It’s still my least favourite place in the States (yes, even as a filmmaker).”

Orange County


“It was still very early to start hiking, so I stayed in Orange County for a few days at a friend’s place. I even took on the cold Pacific to hit some waves with the locals.”

Mount Laguna


“Mount Laguna is a small mountain town with a diner and a motel. It was the first civilization I encountered after I started hiking from the Mexican border in San Diego. My first near death experience came on the second day after passing out in the desert due to dehydration. I got picked up and taken to a ranger station and after refueling on Gatorade I decided to continue. I arrived in Mount Laguna on Valentine’s Day and the motel was full, so I helped out in the diner in order to sleep on the couch and use their shower. At least the local blue grass band made for great entertainment.”

Scissors Crossing, San Diego Desert


“Lonesome nights in the desert. Due to one of my biggest mistakes of starting my hike way to early, most of my nights were spent like this.”

San Jacinto PeakWillem-van-der-Heever-10

“Out of the hot desert and into the snowy mountains. This was my second near death experience. At 10834 ft. I was the first hiker to try and cross the mountain, there was no visible trail and as the sun was setting I got lost. I was trying to find a spot to pitch my tent for the night but due to the thick soft snow it wasn’t possible. Eventually another lost hiker from Germany (only doing a day hike) found me and two hours later we made our way off the mountain.”

Joshua Tree


“Leaving the snowy mountains I decided to go explore one of the most unique places on this planet, Joshua Tree National Park.”

Mount Baden Powell


“After a lot of, what felt like endless, miles full of highs and lows (physically and emotionally) I encountered another tremendous challenge. Getting over what would be my most challenging mountain yet. After a day of contemplating I decided to do it. I summited the just below 10 000 ft. peak after a very difficult climb, but unfortunately on the way down I slipped, had a big fall and nearly broke my ankle.”

Mojave DesertWillem-van-der-Heever-13

“After recovering from my injury it was back into the hot and treacherous desert. This was my hottest day and involved my first rattlesnake encounter. Luckily I met Dane from Seattle, who hiked with me that day. Before flying back to South Africa 5 months later, I met up with him again in Seattle and we are already planning our next adventure here in South Africa.”


Willem-van-der-Heever-14Willem-van-der-Heever-15Willem-van-der-Heever-16“I then decided to change course and head into one of the most beautiful places on earth, Yosemite, Northern California. It was the most incredible 5 days of my trip. I camped at a lot of illegal camping at spots, in order to photograph the starts and see the most epic sunrises. It was all worth it in the end.”


“With the time on my visa running out, I decided to head straight to Washington in order to explore the Washington Wilderness and Pacific Peninsula. This was an extraordinary ending to my crazy adventure. From Snoqualmie falls, exploring the quirky and almost forgotten port town, Port Townsend to finding frozen lakes and natural hot springs in the Olympic Mountains.”

See more photos by clicking here.

%d bloggers like this: