Washington state man facing federal charges for organizing large Grand Canyon hike

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A man from Washington state is facing federal charges for allegedly organizing a Grand Canyon hike with a large group of people.

Joseph Don Mount is being accused of setting up a 153-person hike at the Grand Canyon on Oct. 24 where the group did not follow social distancing or mask guidelines, according to a federal affidavit, NBC News reported.

He is being charged with intentionally interfering with a government employee, giving a false report, soliciting business without a permit, violating activity restrictions and violating coronavirus restrictions, the affidavit says.

Even without COVID-19, the park has a rule of groups no bigger than 30 people hiking together. That number got cut to 11 during the virus.

A person reported the group during the planning stages of the hike when Mount posted about it in a Facebook group. An official got in contact with Mount and told him he was not allowed to plan this event.

“As you could imagine, a park official telling me I can’t hike the R2R with more than 11 people isn’t going to prevent me from doing one of the greatest hikes in the planet,” Mount said on Facebook after the official talked to him and he stepped down as trip leader.

Instead of canceling the event, Mount is accused of telling people to still all come at the same time but that they will be hiking in separate groups of 11, which is also not allowed according to park rules.

Park rules do not let big groups break off into smaller ones. Mount allegedly said the groups could bring walkie-talkies to stay connected.

During the hike, the groups did not stay separated and 70 people were hiking together at one point, the affidavit says.

The police say he earned thousands of dollars from the trip by making the hikers pay a $95 registration fee, NBC News reported.

“With COVID and everything, people were just itching to get out. … I didn’t do it for profit. People had already bought plane tickets and made plans,” Mount told the Daily Beast.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Grand Canyon Hiking restrictions Washington

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