My hiking experience in the Issaquah Alps began with Cougar Mountain. But in 1998 we purchased a house much further south and over time became acquainted with the Southeast-most Alp, Taylor Mountain. My affection for Taylor was a slow grow. My heart was still in Cougar Mountain, for which I published the official guidebook in 2000. But over time I’ve come to recognize Taylor as my new Cougar: a lot of deciduous forest, a less closed in feel than Tiger or Squak, and a still developing trail system with unofficial connector trails and mapping surprises.
What Taylor also has is proximity to the Cedar River Watershed (largely closed to the public) and the backside of Rattlesnake Ledge. Cougar is surrounded by multiple suburban communities, but Taylor is on the edge of thousands of acres of wilderness. Our family’s only face-to-face encounter with a black bear happened to my wife on Taylor two summers ago. Taylor is often deathly silent, unlike the rumble of urbanity that disturbs most of Cougar. And Taylor has introduced us to the pleasure of hiking with ravens.
I’m sure there are ravens elsewhere in the Alps. But I don’t recall hearing them. On Taylor, it seems every other hike is accompanied by a raven. Into the silence of the Watershed side of the mountain they insert their presence with a much more varied vocabulary than the crow’s. Their deeper croaks seem conversational. We will hear them calling to us from further away, then usually one flies closer and we will see it shadowing our path, moving from one 150′ evergreen perch to the next. They don’t seem annoyed, and I fancy they are just interested in us. Perhaps they’re just making sure we know which particular slice of Taylor’s is their property or prerogative.
At this point in my reflection, a more modern person would look up “Ravens” in Wikipedia. Perhaps to study how they differ from crows, or find out what scientists know about their calls, or learn whether they are truly territorial. But while I don’t discount any of that knowledge I resist looking them up. Why? Because there is something about the ravens on Taylor that feels mystical. I don’t want my bubble popped. I don’t want one kind of knowledge to lessen another. I’m enjoying reacting to the ravens the way someone in 500 BC, or 500 AD, might, in a fashion not necessarily ignorant of but just separate from scientific understanding.
Because if it weren’t for the ravens on Taylor, I wouldn’t be thinking of ravens at all. The world has presented me with ravens in this fashion…Taylor hikes were the genesis of my interest and my experience, and I don’t want to dishonor that particular presentation by rushing on to someone else’s collection of facts. If nature gave me the companionship of ravens on our walk this week, I want to take it at face value and honor for the time being how that companionship makes me feel.