This time David Lesh made his feelings toward public lands crystal clear.
After riding his snowmobile in a wilderness area on Independence Pass in July 2019, poaching Keystone’s terrain park with his snowmobile while it was closed last winter and entering Hanging Lake during a COVID-related closure this summer, the part-time Colorado resident elevated his social media-curated disrespect for those lands to a new level Wednesday.
Lesh, 35, posted a picture to Instagram late Wednesday morning that purports to show him defecating in Maroon Lake.
“Moved to Colorado 15 years ago, finally made it to Maroon Lake,” Lesh wrote in the photo’s caption. “A scenic dump with no one there was worth the wait.”
The photo shows him standing in the lake shirtless with his shorts around his ankles while squatting and holding on to a dead tree stump on the shore of the lake. He appears to be in the middle of defecating. There is not a way to see when the photo was taken, but partially snow-covered Maroon Bells — the most photographed feature in Colorado — are in the background, along with the yellow and orange fall colors.
The photo received more than 3,000 likes and nearly 300 comments by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, with some commenters calling Lesh “a legend.”
Lesh just appeared in U.S. District Court in Grand Junction on Oct. 2 to answer to charges related to the alleged Hanging Lake and Keystone incidents. During that appearance, Lesh agreed not to trespass on closed national forest lands and to abide by all rules on open lands or risk arrest and/or the forfeiture of a $1,000 bond.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said he was aware of the Maroon Lake photo but could not comment further. A spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service said the same thing.
Kevin Warner, district ranger for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District that includes the Maroon Bells, confirmed in an email exchange that entering Maroon Lake for any purpose — swimming, wading, boating — is prohibited. Defecating in the lake also is not allowed under “more general sanitation regulations,” Warner said.
“The photo is deeply offensive to us at the Forest Service,” he said in a subsequent phone interview. “I think it is deeply offensive to the public who treasure their national forests.”
However, Warner said the photo may not be real. Lake levels this year and the location of avalanche debris appear to indicate the photo was not taken this year, he said.
“I can’t tell you definitively,” Warner said.
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said the U.S. Forest Service is investigating the alleged incident, along with a deputy from his office. He said he first heard about the photo from someone in the community who has kept tabs on Lesh since his antics on Independence Pass, though he later heard from at least five other people on the subject.
DiSalvo said he’d seen the picture and caption.
“I took him at his word,” the sheriff said of Lesh allegedly using the lake as a toilet. “That’s what it looked like he was doing. The behavior’s totally unacceptable.”
U.S. Magistrate Gordon Gallagher on Oct. 2 approved Lesh’s bond conditions regarding public lands and ordered him to provide the unsecured bond. If he violates conditions of the bond, he will “be on the hook for $1,000,” Gallagher said at the time.
Asked if he understood the conditions, Lesh said, “I do, your honor.”
A message left for Lesh’s attorney in Grand Junction was not returned Wednesday. In addition, a message sent to Lesh via Instagram from The Aspen Times seeking comment was not returned.