Tribute to Jack English (Pine Valley, Ventana, Chews Ridge, Carmel Valley & Pacific Grove road trip)

Back on December 12th and 13th we were having some glorious California sunshine and I decided to head to the Los Padres National Forest. Visiting the cabin of Jack English, in Pine Valley, has been on my to-do list for awhile and the temperatures were forecasted to be in the 60’s in nearby Carmel Valley. I called the Ranger Station to confirm the campground on Chews Ridge was still open for car camping, and off I went!

My goal was to visit the cabin of a 94 year old man named “Jack English” who owns a small inholding. He has lived there full time for 10+ years since his wife passed away. He is famous for his hand crafted violin bows and his welcoming of visitors.

This is a BEAUTIFUL video background of Jack’s story:

..and a very new LA Times article, with a great embedded video:,0,2517916.htmlstory#axzz2ozeDlX5F


Another great link!

My friend “Calipidder” tried 3 years ago and missed him:

So, now that you know who Jack English and “Scrumptious” are, back to my journey!

“Do you know the way from San Jose?” I stopped at the Marina State Beach, north of Monterey, before heading inland towards the primary destination:


Also, “while I was in the neighborhood”, I stopped by the former Fort Ord, which is now partially open for hiking:



The hike included some quiet paths, majestic trees, as well as a formerly paved road that’s returning to nature:




Following that brief hike, keeping in mind the early sunset, I headed through Carmel Valley and Jamesburg to Chew’s Ridge. I planned to car camp there at the trailhead to Pine Valley, then hike in and out of Pine Valley the next day to visit Jack.


It was late in the day as I left the pavement in my 2WD and drove up, and up, and up towards the trailhead and campground. I started encountering more and more snow and ice patches on the road. I knew that as soon as the sun set, I would be there for most of the next 24 hours as it would not be safe to head down the steep road until the ice was once again melting in the afternoon.



At the decision point and trailhead, I decided to beat it out of there. I recently had an expensive “issue” taking my 2WD car where it shouldn’t be. This situation could have been dangerous (and expensive) should I try to drive back down the hill on a steep, icy surface with no guard rails.

(Further down the other side of the hill is the remote Tassajara Zen Center, which is open to guests in the warmer seasons.


Whew! I made it back to Carmel Valley just in time for Happy Hour and a strong 4G signal. From behind a pint of beer, I booked a bare-bones motel across from the beach in Pacific Grove, just a mile south of Monterey’s Cannery Row.

(Photo of the main drag in Carmel Valley)


Some great views were to be found the next morning, less than a block from the motel, when the sun rose the next morning.






I later found that Jack English was not at his cabin at the time. In fact, has not lived there much in the past year, as mentioned in the LA Times video linked above.

I’ll assess the situation again in the spring and consider a return trip to Pine Valley (with or without Jack being there), or maybe even a visit to Tassajara!

Though I may never get to meet Jack, he is an inspiration to have lived such a fulfilling life.

Glad I went, glad I exercised good judgement and got out of there while I could, and looking forward to going back next year!

About AlphaRoaming

Random outdoor roaming: hiking, cycling, camping, backpacking & plotting more of the above Grew up on the edges of the Adirondack mountains of New York, just a bit west of Vermont. Now living in Silicon Valley and venturing out when and where I can!
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