'High on Life' Canadians face nature violations in U.S. court

The road ahead split this week for a brotherhood of Canadian travel bloggers accused of disrespecting America's natural wonders. Two members of the High on Life crew pleaded guilty to violations in Death Valley and Yellowstone. The remaining three sought counsel to fight the charges against them.

Three YouTube bloggers plead not guilty to National Park offences as remaining two pay fines

Members of the High On Life crew pose on the Bonneville Salt Flats in a picture posted to their Facebook page. They are accused of breaking the rules in a series of U.S. parks. (High On Life)

The road less travelled split this week for a brotherhood of Canadian bloggers accused of disrespecting America's natural wonders during an epic U.S. journey.

Two members of the 'High on Life' crew pleaded guilty to violations including riding a bike in the Death Valley wilderness and walking off path at Yellowstone.

The remaining three have been appointed counsel to fight a raft of allegations against them in parks across the Southwest.

"I am deeply offended by the serial nature of these violations," Death Valley National Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds said in a statement.

"This is a pattern of behaviour that shows no respect for environmental protection or the experiences of other park visitors."

Guilty of riding a bike in Death Valley

According to the park service, the five defendants from the Vancouver-based High On Life group appeared in Wyoming's Yellowstone Justice Center this week to answer charges which sparked global outrage this summer.

Although the group have subsequently issued a series of online apologies, this was the first time they appeared publicly to answer allegations which arose when fellow tourists reported them walking on the Grand Prismatic Spring.

Pictures from the High on Life Facebook page led authorities to cite the group's members for improperly riding bikes in Death Valley. (High on Life)

Parker Heuser pleaded guilty to riding a bike in Death Valley and taking commercial photographs without a permit.

He agreed to pay more than US $1,000 in fines and fees which also stem from violations at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, where the group filmed themselves waterskiing.

Hamish McNab Cross Campbell, a New Zealand resident who is loosely affiliated with the group, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct by creating a hazardous condition and foot travel in a thermal area at Yellowstone.

He agreed to pay more than US $8,000 in fines, restitution and community service payments. Both Campbell and Heuser were put on a five year probation banning them from a wide swath of U.S, public lands.

'May be seeking confinement'

According to the park service, the three other Vancouver members of the High on Life crew, Charles Ryker Gamble, Alexey Andriyovych Lyakh and Justis Cooper Price Brown, pleaded not guilty to multiple violation notices.

Those allegations stem from investigations in Death Valley, Yellowstone, Mesa Verde and Zion National Parks as well as the Corona Arch and the Bonneville Salt Flats.

The park service says the alleged offences include using a bicycle off the roadway, operating a drone and commercial photography without a permit.

The three men will be appointed court attorneys.

Gamble had previously been represented by defence attorney Thomas Fleener. But according to documents filed in a Colorado court, Gamble has discharged him.

In one motion, Fleener writes that Gamble had planned to enter a guilty plea in relation to multiple violations, but plea negotiations failed.

And in another, Fleener says that Gamble is indigent and cannot afford counsel. He also says the Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case "may be seeking confinement."

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.