A Washington State man is facing federal charges for allegedly organizing a largely unmasked, non-socially-distanced, 153-person hike across the Grand Canyon that not only violated COVID-19 restrictions but normal group size limits, too.
Joseph Don Mount, who until recently was the chief operating officer at a Chehalis, Washington medical clinic, is also accused of lying to National Park Service officials about his plans, which included having two buses and three vans transport attendees to and from the October 2020 event, according to a criminal complaint made public on May 5 in Arizona federal court. An administrator at the Steck Clinic confirmed that Mount no longer works there.
To minimize environmental impact, rim-to-rim hikes such as the one Mount is accused of carrying out have been strictly limited to groups of 30 or fewer since 2014. In an effort to stem the COVID pandemic, rim-to-rim hikes have since been limited to 11 people. Mount suggested everyone on the trip bring walkie-talkies to coordinate so they would avoid being seen in a big group, Park Ranger Timothy Hopp said in an affidavit attached to the complaint.