The call of adventure led to a dinner that three visitors to Yellowstone National Park won’t likely forget.
The adventure began with a Yellowstone ranger receiving a report that hikers were toting cooking pots in a thermal area of the park. The outing ended with three men facing fines and two of them spending a couple of days in jail.
It all began Aug. 7 when Eric Romriell, 49, and Eric Roberts, 51, both from, Idaho, and Dallas Roberts, 41, of Utah, were part of a group spotted in the Shoshone Geyser Basin with “cooking pots,” Linda Veress, a park spokeswoman, told The New York Times.
“A ranger responded and found two whole chickens in a burlap sack in a hot spring,” she said. One cooking pot was nearby.
The group had been bathing in the river nearby during the ranger’s visit, but Romriell encountered him on his way back to see how dinner was cooking.
The chicken was consumed in the ranger’s absence.
“It was fantastic,” Romriell said.
The next day, the ranger returned to the men’s campsites and issued citations, with orders to appear in court.
In September, all three pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Casper, Wyoming, to foot travel in a thermal area. Romriell also pleaded guilty to having food in a thermal area, the Times reported, citing court records.
Eric Roberts and Dallas Roberts were ordered to pay $540 in fines and spend two days in jail, according to the Idaho State Journal. Romriell paid $1,250 in fines. All three are banned from Yellowstone as part of two years of probation.
Romriell, an ophthalmologist in Idaho Falls, Idaho, said he didn’t know they were doing anything wrong, according to the Times.
“The way I interpreted it [park rules] was don’t be destructive,” Romriell said, “and I didn’t feel like I was.”
“One of the big rules for scouting and camping is leave no trace,” he said. “I don’t intend to be a naughty person. I don’t intend to be a troublemaker.”
Dallas Roberts, who runs a window-cleaning business in West Valley City, Utah, admitted that “I can see that we should not have done that.”
“We definitely have respect for Yellowstone,” he said. “We have respect for the outdoors and would never do anything in any way to contaminate that or to cause problems for others.”
Romriell said there was a question of “when is land use appropriate, when is land use abusive. My opinion was it was land use, but it wasn’t land abuse.”
Veress said the rules are in place to protect visitors from water that tops 400 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause “severe or fatal burns.”
Retired Yellowstone historian Lee Whittlesey said tourists will be tourists, according to The Guardian.
“When I place them within the larger milieu of American tourists, it probably isn’t that extraordinary,” he said.
Whittlesey noted that the chicken caper ended without injury, but not all visitors have been so lucky. In June 2016, one visitor walked off a boardwalk in the Norris Geyser Basin and fell through the thin crust over a superheated, very acidic spring and was never seen again.
“Are people ecologically and behaviorally smarter today? My cynical streak says no, but we are better in explaining the reasons why we shouldn’t do this or that than we used to be,” Whittlesey said. “Still, that doesn’t stop people from causing trouble. In some ways, we are no better than the early park tourists, and the problem is there’s far more of us.”
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