A Washington state man is facing multiple federal charges for flouting coronavirus rules by organizing a massive hike through the Grand Canyon. Officials said that Joseph Don Mount spent months planning the hike, which included up to 153 people from across the country.
He advertised the excursion on Facebook and was charging $95 per person, which included a bus to and from the Grand Canyon. Somebody saw Mount's posts online and sent screenshots to park rangers, concerned that the hike would violate the 11-person limit for groups who want to hike through the national park.
Ranger Timothy Hopp called Mount and warned him that his planned hike not only violates the current 11-person limit put in place during the coronavirus pandemic but would also be in violation of the normal limit of 30 people.
Mount assured Hopp he was only planning to hike with ten people but had no intention of changing his plans. Instead, he contacted everybody who had already paid for the hike and told them to break off into smaller groups and make it appear like he was not leading the group. He told them to bring walkie-talkies so they could communicate during the hike to ensure they kept enough distance to keep park rangers from noticing a large number of hikers on the trail.
On the day of the hike, park rangers noticed a large influx of hikers, with ranger Cody Allinson writing that he "witnessed so many individuals traveling in the same direction in such a condensed period of time and space," in an affidavit, which was obtained by Fox News.
Officials said that there were groups of up to 70 hikers crowding the trail, which made it difficult for people not affiliated with the group to complete the hike from the North Rim to the South Rim.
Mount was taken into custody and was charged with giving a false report, intentionally interfering with a government employee, soliciting business without a permit, violating activity restrictions, and violating coronavirus restrictions.
Mount claims he did nothing wrong because he advised the people who already paid to break into smaller groups.
"With COVID and everything, people were just itching to get out," Mount told the Daily Beast. "I didn't do it for profit. People had already bought plane tickets and made plans. I'd say about a third to half were single parents and had arranged childcare."
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