The Sedona 's 5's Excellent Adventure

Five joy riders mountain-biked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon; five federal prisoners rode back up in shackles

Hand escorted the bikers to the Phantom Ranch station, where she took them inside one by one and questioned them--name, social security number, "you do know the park's closed, don't you?", etc. The bikers were still smiling and joking around, guessing they would just be issued citations and allowed to continue their ride. Then Hand announced she and another ranger were going to look through their packs.

The search yielded 18 grams of marijuana, 15 grams of hallucinogenic mushrooms and assorted paraphernalia, scattered among four of the five's packs and bike bags (only Forest was clean). Unbeknown to the busted bikers, Hand had also run their names through a national law enforcement database to check for outstanding warrants, and two of them were red-flagged (both warrants later turned out to be cases of mistaken identity).

Herring had been following these events via radio from the ranger headquarters on the South Rim. "At that point, she was down there with five individuals who were in the park illegally, who were exhibiting a disrespectful attitude toward the park and the ranger, and who were in possession of controlled substances. We also thought two of them had outstanding arrest warrants. Based on these factors, we decided she needed immediate back-up."

Enter the helicopter--a Park Service Bell 206 carrying, the bikers say, eight to ten heavily armed rangers in orange jumpsuits and bright red bulletproof vests. Herring says that's "a bunch of bullshit." He says it was only him, one other ranger and the pilot, wearing standard sidearms. The orange jumpsuits are standard for helicopter flights, he says. Herring said he and the other ranger were wearing bulletproof vests, ". . . but they were under our uniforms. And they weren't big flak jackets or anything. I doubt they were really noticeable."

Either way, both sides agree on what happened once the copter landed on the helipad at Phantom Ranch--the bikers were officially placed under arrest, separated to different corners of two nearby volleyball courts, handcuffed and put in leg irons.

Serious buzzkill.
"There were some sad faces once we got there," Herring says. "I think they realized the situation was a little more serious than they had bargained for."

Rama and Wheeze were the first two loaded onto the copter. Rama claims one of the rangers told him as it took off, "The pilot's safety is our primary concern. Don't make any sudden movements. We'll shoot you if we have to." Long Tall and Forest were next. The final rider, Dangerous Dave, had to be lifted to the copter in a rescue basket because the sun had set and Park Service regulations prohibit copter landings below the rim once the sun is down.

The ride up, all five bikers say, was outstanding. "I was disappointed at first because I've never touched the water of the Colorado, and I was really looking forward to that," says Forest. "But then they flew us over it, so I didn't feel so bad."

"The copter ride was certainly as spectacular as the descent on bikes," says Rama. "It was once in a lifetime. I mean, a sunset ride below the rim. You can't even buy that [a 1986 law prohibits commercial flights inside the Grand Canyon]."

The biker pauses. "But then, I guess we did."

Topside, the prisoners were taken by car to the ranger station on the South Rim, booked and put in a holding cell, still shackled. On the way, they heard a bulletin come over the CB that the park would reopen to the public the next day. "We got in just under the wire," says Wheeze.

Once they were all in the cell, Dave started to perform a chiropractic adjustment on Forest. The rangers intervened. "They said, 'Excuse me, I don't know what you're doing, but stop touching him please.'" While the bikers stewed, one of the rangers passing the cell jokingly referred to them as "The Sedona 5."

Not bad, the bikers thought.
Wheeze had brought along a fat cash roll, "just in case," and he had enough to bail out himself and Forest (the only one without drug charges). The other three sat in the cell for two hours before the rangers released them on their own recognizance. "They said they couldn't keep us there overnight," says Rama, "and they didn't want to haul us to Flagstaff."

Before they left for home, the five asked about their bikes, and the rangers said they were still down at Phantom Ranch. "I don't see why they had to make us dump our bikes and go in the copter," says Rama. "I mean, I appreciated the ride, but it seems like if they wanted to punish us, it would have been better to make us ride up and then arrest us. Or, better yet, why not take the front wheel off each of our bikes and say, 'Okay, see you guys at the top!' Now that would have harshed us."

Ten days later, the Sedona 5 appeared before magistrate Verkamp to accept a plea bargain offered by Park Service law enforcement specialist Dave Swickard, the government prosecutor in the case. They all pleaded guilty to violating a park closure, bicycling in a prohibited area and, where appropriate, misdemeanor marijuana possession. The Park Service dropped the mushrooms and paraphernalia charges. Each biker was ordered to pay $244 restitution for the helicopter flights (which Herring says cost exactly $1,220) and given a $250 suspended fine for the criminal offenses. They also had to forfeit their bikes, which Rama estimated were worth a total of $4,000. Herring says the bicycles ". . . are now in the ranger cache. We let the Boy Scouts ride them on perimeter patrols sometimes."

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help

Mountain bikers' middle name is "Scofflaw".

Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1996: . It's dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don't have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else -- ON FOOT! Why isn't that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking....

A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it's not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

Those were all experimental studies. Two other studies (by White et al and by Jeff Marion) used a survey design, which is inherently incapable of answering that question (comparing hiking with mountain biking). I only mention them because mountain bikers often cite them, but scientifically, they are worthless.

Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the area, and, worst of all, teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it's NOT!). What's good about THAT?

To see exactly what harm mountain biking does to the land, watch this 5-minute video:

In addition to all of this, it is extremely dangerous: .

For more information: .

The common thread among those who want more recreation in our parks is total ignorance about and disinterest in the wildlife whose homes these parks are. Yes, if humans are the only beings that matter, it is simply a conflict among humans (but even then, allowing bikes on trails harms the MAJORITY of park users -- hikers and equestrians -- who can no longer safely and peacefully enjoy their parks).

The parks aren't gymnasiums or racetracks or even human playgrounds. They are WILDLIFE HABITAT, which is precisely why they are attractive to humans. Activities such as mountain biking, that destroy habitat, violate the charter of the parks.

Even kayaking and rafting, which give humans access to the entirety of a water body, prevent the wildlife that live there from making full use of their habitat, and should not be allowed. Of course those who think that only humans matter won't understand what I am talking about -- an indication of the sad state of our culture and educational system.

Phoenix Concert Tickets