After my initial foray through the Ventana wilderness near Big Sur, California, I returned to Pine Valley to lie again beneath those soughing pines that sound like they have a river running through the tops of them.
The week-long backpacking trip had been marked by endless crawling and clambering with full packs over the fallen trees that lined the switchbacks of the backcountry (“No money for trail maintenance” we were told. “It’s the war”), but no one complained. The practice was rich, accompanied by yucca sending up their yellow blooms like skyrockets, horny toads, owls hooting to one another across the river, and terrain which in a single day’s hike rose from shady redwoods at the valley floor to cactus chaparral at the crests of valleys, sparkling in the baking sun.
One of the features in the landscape that drew me back was Jack English, who we were introduced to by our trip leader. An octogenarian who lives in a simple cabin in the wilderness, Jack makes finely crafted bows for stringed instruments with fingers twisted like branches from arthritis. Like many oldsters, Jack tends to repeat himself, but I noticed whatever he says gets truer every time he says it. Continue reading “Ventana Jack”