John Muir Trail Day 15: Coyote Carnage and Feeling Small in a Big World


Daily Neet Beat
Hooray, a Scamper Day! Today we are headed for Lake Italy which was recommended by George, a friend who has spent time in the Sierras and has hiked sections of the John Muir Trail. This is a day where we do not make mileage on the JMT but instead go off on a side hike and scamper around. It is nice to leave the tent set up. We get to the junction to Lake Italy fairly quickly and turn off the main John Muir Trail. The trail is fainter and our feet get damp from the morning dew on the grasses. We climb up through the forest and meadows and come out into an open valley, U-shaped and polished by glaciers.  This area feels very muscular to me. Big, rounded and polished ridges and peaks of granite. I say to Ray “I feel very small out here”. It is true, the grandeur here can overtake you. We hike up to Teddy Bear Lake and then onto Lake Italy. It is a beautiful lake with fish jumping and snow on the slabs and rocks of granite near the shore. Ray heads up to Jumble Lake to look around and then we head back. On the way down we find a piece of black, glassy obsidian which looks like it has been chipped and worked by humans. Black obsidian definitely is out of place here and it is probably from pre-historic times. I wonder about who and why they were up here. Catching fish? Did they use obsidian points to spear them in the water? We leave the chipped piece where we found it. It is important to leave archaeological pieces where they are found and pass the information onto archaeologists and other experts so the information is not lost.
We return to camp and make dinner. After dinner we are cleaning up when we hear an unusual sound. I’m not sure how to describe it but it sounded like somebody crying out in pain, a wailing sound. Ray and I both drop our dishes and run to the ridge to see what is going on across the river. About 75 feet up the slope above a granite cliff in the trees we see movement. First a deer with an orange radio collar is jumping up and off the rocks, then disappears behind some trees, then a coyote whizzes across the clearing, a then a second and then a third. The coyotes begin circling the deer who is the one crying out and making strange noises. They circle the deer faster and faster. The deer is now behind a grove of trees so we cannot see it but we can see the coyotes circling it. Then I see one coyote pounce up in the air and come down. Then all is silent. I think the deer lost. What is really wierd is we heard the same wailing  noise around 4am in the morning. We debated what that may mean for some time.

Just the Facts

From Near Junction of Lake Italy Trail to Same
Scamper Day!
Miles: 14
Total Miles: 163.1
Elevation gain and loss: over 2,000 up and 2,000 down

Photos of the Day
The “muscular” granite valley and feeling small in a big world. Note that Ray is in the picture with his arms raised.
The beautiful Lake Italy
Shallow grooves carved by the glacier are deeper than the smaller striations and indicate that the glacier was very large in this location
An ice bank next to Lake Italy at an elevation of 11,202 feet


Two young ptarmigans by Jumble Lake
An obsidian chip and artifact near Lake Italy




  1. I love the way we trace our anthropological heritage with lithic scatter (which of course lasts longer that plain scat). Single points are harder. I wonder how many humans may have picked up the point you found. Did they carry it farther? Or did they “Kerrie it” so that the point remains in place? Either way it is a chronicler of our anthropological heritage! You two are so delightfully respectful.

Leave a Reply