The Devil Bear is back. Everyone take cover!
But they don't call him the Devil Bear anymore, because Olympic National Park officials are worried about anthropomorphism. That is a big word that means attributing human traits to animals.
Those crazy media guys called him the Devil Bear after they heard an Olympic National Park biologist call the bear that was terrorizing hikers on the Elwha River ""a devil."" That was a couple of years ago.
Every spring since, park officials have closed a portion of the Elwha River Trail to overnight camping. You may have read about it last week in The Sun.
You can camp overnight at the Lillian River on the Elwha River Trail, but if you are hiking upstream, your next overnight stop is almost 7 miles away.
Someone toting a week's worth of gear may find that a long haul, indeed.
The first 2 miles past the Lillian campsite is a tough 800-foot climb as the trail circumvents the Grand Canyon of the Elwha River. From the high point, the trail drops about 2 miles to the first large campsite on the Elwha at Mary's Falls.
You'll find an outhouse there, as well as numerous campsites along the river.
These spots were once popular among anglers who were tired after carrying gear and camping equipment almost 9 miles from the trailhead at Whiskey Bend.
The campsites at Mary's Falls are closed today, thanks largely to the Devil Bear, who apparently was so starved for food that he actually went after freeze-dried food and toothpaste that was stored in a camper's toilet kit. It is difficult for me to imagine any wild animal actually preferring freeze-dried food and toothpaste to fresh roots and berries, but you can't argue with the experts.
Anyway, the Devil Bear freaked out a couple of English tourists, whose only previous encounter with wildlife was probably squirrels in Sherwood Forest.
Park officials at first planned to shoot the Devil Bear (which probably would have been easier on the bear than trying to digest freeze-dried food), but the bear headed for the high country and ate berries for the rest of the season.
Two miles upstream from Mary's Camp is another campsite that is closed today - Canyon Camp. It looks like the trail used to run along the river there, with several nice campsites along the river. There's even a brand-new bear wire there, installed several years ago so that hikers could hang their food out of the bear's reach.
Canyon Camp is a mile below Elkhorn Ranger Station, which is the first campsite open to overnight hikers since leaving Lillian. Elkhorn is a splendid, though crowded, spot, where tired hikers arriving in the evening are often greeted by a seasonal ranger who tells them all campsites are full and they'll have to hike another 1.5 miles upstream to Remann's Cabin campsite.
The last time I was there during the Devil Bear scare, the backcountry ranger invited me to stay in the horse pasture. I pitched my tent amidst fragrant piles of manure.
There are two lessons here, it seems to me. First, don't feed the bears, even if it is food you wouldn't eat if you were starving.
Second, and most important: Don't overreact, especially if you work for the National Park Service.