The piercing howl of a coyote startles us awake. His voice is so vividly clear that he must be within our campground. The moon is long gone, and in the still air his howl is all-consuming.
We lift our heads to look around and begin to hear distant replies. One group seems to be further west in the valley, near the visitor's center and the RV campground. We listen to their back-and-forth dialog for a few minutes when another howl comes suddenly from our side of the valley. After a few more minutes, the howling stops abruptly.
Once our ears adjust, we can hear his footsteps as he walks around the campground. In this silent area, every sound is crisp, and we hear a twig snap in the next campsite. Our coyote is making a whimpering sound, and is soon joined by another. The second coyote from further up our side of the valley is here, and they sound like they're circling each other in our neighbor's campsite.
After a few nervous seconds, one of the campers shouts, and the coyotes sprint from the campground.
As the sound of their running recedes, flashlights from tents all around the campground scan the area, and we can hear murmurs of conversation from the other tents. After it appears that they've gone for good, the movement settles and the area falls into complete silence again.