It was supposed to be a fun family summer trip to Yellowstone National Park. Two cousins, a neighbor, and their families packed two chickens, canoeed for about eight hours, and walked to the Shoshone Geyser Basin, where they decided to cook their chickens in a hot spring.
But the dinner did not go as planned. In fact, this led three of them to plead guilty to minor offenses. They were sentenced to two years’ probation, banned from the park during that time and fined $ 500 to $ 1,200, according to court documents.
The men, park officials said, had violated laws governing the use of the national park.
It is illegal to go off the boardwalk or designated trails and touch or throw objects into hot springs or other hydrothermal features in the park, said Linda Veress, a spokesperson for the park. It’s also dangerous, she added. The water in the park’s hydrothermal systems can exceed 400 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause “severe or fatal burns,” she said.
The three, Eric Romriell, 49, and Eric Roberts, 51, both of Idaho, and Dallas Roberts, 41, of Utah, were part of a group that a ranger found after received reports of people walking with “pans” towards the basin. on August 7, Ms Veress said.
“A ranger responded and found two whole chickens in a burlap bag in a hot spring,” she said. A cooking pot was also found nearby. When Mr Romriell went to check on the chicken – the group were swimming in the nearby river – he found the ranger, who then questioned him and the rest of the group of 10 about it. The next day, the ranger returned to the men’s campsites and issued summonses to them demanding a mandatory court appearance.
In September, the three men pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Casper, Wyo., To walking to a spa area, court records show. Mr Romriell also pleaded guilty to the additional charge of having food in a spa area.
Mr. Romriell, an ophthalmologist in Idaho Falls, Idaho, said in an interview Tuesday that he didn’t know he was doing anything wrong. He took monthly camping trips as a Master Scout in Idaho for several years, he said, and each time his troop tried creative ways to cook their meals – something Mr. Romriell described it as “how not to hurt him while brutalizing him”.
They made milkshakes from raspberries or lingonberries they found on a hike, he said, or tied hot dogs to a rope and boiled them in hot springs while they swam nearby.
During the trip to Yellowstone, the group decided to try a chicken dinner. They brined the chicken several days in advance. Mr Romriell said he looked at the park’s regulations and found only one line prohibiting “throwing, throwing or rolling stones or other objects” within the thermal features.
“The way I interpreted it wasn’t destructive,” Mr. Romriell said, “and I didn’t feel like I was.”
Mr Romriell said he twice packed the chickens in a roasting bag and burlap bag so as not to contaminate the water. He carefully placed the chickens inside a spring that was right next to the trail.
“One of the big rules of spotting and camping is to leave no trace,” he said, adding that an officer who inspected his campsite said it was clean. “I don’t mean to be a mean person. I don’t mean to be a troublemaker.
One of the other men, Dallas Roberts, who owns a window cleaning business in West Valley City, Utah, said he saw “small and old laminate panels” indicating they were approaching. a closed area, but didn’t realize they had applied. hot springs. (A spokesperson for the park responded on Tuesday, saying, “There are signs all over the park, as well as on the park’s website and in printed matter.”)
Mr Roberts agreed the group was not doing any damage, but added, “I can see we shouldn’t have done this.”
“We definitely have respect for Yellowstone,” he said. “We respect the outdoors and will never do anything to contaminate it or cause problems for others.
Eric Roberts, the third man involved and a cousin of Dallas Roberts, declined to comment on Tuesday.
There have been a number of episodes in which visitors have been injured in a hot pool in the park. Last month, a 3-year-old girl suffered second-degree thermal burns to her lower body and back after slipping and falling in a small thermal element near Midway Geyser Basin, according to the park.
In 2016, a 23-year-old man died after walking on a boardwalk, slipping and falling in one of Yellowstone’s hot springs. The man, Colin Nathaniel Scott, of Portland, Ore., Had walked about 225 yards from the trails near Porkchop Geyser when his sister saw him fall into the Norris Geyser Basin.
Yellowstone became the nation’s first national park in 1872. The park, which is located primarily in Wyoming but also includes small portions in Idaho and Montana, encompasses 3,472 square miles, including national forests and the park. Grand Teton National.
The park’s hydrothermal activity, one of the big draws for tourists, is part of the Yellowstone volcano, which is fed by an underlying hot spot, according to the park service.
Dallas Roberts and Mr Romriell said they would no longer try what they did in Yellowstone, but Mr Romriell added that he saw it as a matter of ‘when is land use appropriate. , when is land use abusive ”.
“My opinion was that it was land use,” he said, “but it wasn’t land use.
After the park ranger left them after their first meeting on August 7, the group still managed to have the dinner they had prepared. As for the chicken, Mr Romriell said: “It was fantastic.