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Spraying mud

THE OUTDOORS ALMANAC | ARRESTED ADVENTURE

A spin through the geyser splash zone lands a driver in hot water.

November 11, 2003

Federal authorities have charged a Vancouver, Wash., man with driving off-road, injuring mineral resources, possessing a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, storing food improperly and driving with a suspended license after he allegedly spun doughnuts around a geyser last month.

According to rangers in Yellowstone National Park, Adam Ray Elford, 22, drove his 2000 Toyota Tacoma past a locked gate and more than two miles up a trail reserved for foot and bike traffic. He and an unidentified passenger then moved a log barrier and reportedly accelerated toward Lone Star Geyser. The four-wheel-drive's tires left ruts in the sinter, or hot spring deposits, surrounding the geyser cone, rangers said, and spit up dirt in adjoining meadows. Rangers added that after bogging down the truck in soft soil, the pair built a fire -- apparently supplemental heat to Lone Star's 45-foot-high geothermal eruptions, which last 15 minutes every three hours. The next morning, they walked about five miles to the park's premier geyser, Old Faithful.

An unidentified couple there agreed to follow the men to the site but, weighing the gravity of the situation, declined to tow the stuck truck, rangers said. Elford eventually contacted rangers, who arrested him after finding the ruts and a makeshift camp. "I don't think there is a punishment great enough for what this person did," said Joan Anzelmo, a National Park Service staffer.

A federal magistrate in Wyoming released Elford on a $5,000 bond. Each offense is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine. The National Park Service plans to seek full restitution.

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