If you live in Monterey County, there’s a gent you may or may not have heard of. He’s somewhat of a legend, yet he’s not extremely well known. When I’ve told friends about him, they thought I was talking crazy speak. However, this man is real, and his name is Jack English.
Jack lives in the depths of the Ventana wilderness all on his own in a tiny cabin he built himself. His wife, or “Scrumptious” as he called her, lived with him until her passing in the early 2000s. Jack is all alone, but at 92, he draws plenty of visitors. If the allure of a wild forest man is not enough to interest you, perhaps his violin bows will bring him to your attention. Yes, even at 92, the man -with gout gnarled fingers – still makes beautiful, delicate violin bows. Some are inlaid with gold, silver, or abalone. Whatever they are decorated with, you wonder how something so fragile is made by his knotty hands.
Jack is very friendly. Any passerby is usually welcomed in for a cup of tea. He will tell you stories about his past, including life in Alaska and his love for his wife. The only problem about visiting Jack is how to get to him. After the long drive up Chew’s Ridge, there is about a 6-8 mile hike down. That’s the easy part (or so I’m told) because whatever you travel down, you must travel back up to get back to your car. I, however, had the fortune of entering through the Taylor family property, which makes for a slightly shorter and far less treacherous hike into Jack. I’ve got friends in high places I suppose. The trail is accessible, however, from many different outlets. One can even travel all the way from Big Sur into Jack’s place.
The trail is an enjoyable one; isolated and scenic. There are views of caves, once roamed by local Native Americans. Although I have not ventured inside, I’m told the walls have cave paintings of hands with elongated fingers. There are large holes, which my neighbor informed me were dinosaur tracks (actually holes left over from tree stumps that were burned in the fires, but dinosaur tracks are more fun).
Once you get there, make sure you check on the large cliff behind his house. If you can find a way to go around, there is a flatter path to go up. You’ll find an “amphitheater” nestled into the rock. Supposedly hippies used the area as a commune or something. All the drugs are gone, sorry. Keep climbing to the top of the rock, unless you’re afraid of heights. You can then look down on Jack’s cabin and workshop.
If you do decide to visit Jack, make sure you bring plenty of water and a cookie or other treat for Jack, he’s got a real sweet tooth.