My husband and I used to go camping with our horses at a wonderful spot in the coastal mountains south of San Francisco. While there are numerous places to camp with horses in California, Jack Brooks was unique because it provided 12×12 individual paddocks for the horses, lovely restrooms with hot showers, electrical hookups for campers and a marvelous group picnic area with a number of amenities. Since the horses were stalled in a hollow, downhill from the camping area, we didn’t have to have them right next to where we slept and ate. Altogether a very civilized way to camp.
The most important features, of course, were the marvelous trails that descended down into beautiful wooded canyons lined with Tan Oaks and Redwoods. We could ride for as long as we wanted—go on a one-hour loop, ride for a few hours then stop and picnic, or ride all day on an extensive trail system that went along the crest of the mountains with a view of the Pacific Ocean.
Jack Brooks wasn’t easy to get to. The dirt road off the main park road was so narrow the rangers set up a schedule for when you could use it. You could only drive into camp for the first 15 minutes after the hour or leave camp during the 15 minutes after the half hour. (It took approximately 10 minutes to drive the steep, twisty trail.) The narrow path could be quite unnerving—no matter how wide I tried to swing out, my long trailer always scraped the side of the hill at one spot. A couple of curves, with sheer drop-offs, took my breath away every time we went around them. Even so Jack Brooks was so popular you had to make reservations a year ahead of time.
JB developed one draw-back over the years—feral pigs. The first year it was kind of cute to see the huge sow with her batch of piglets trot up the hill to wait for nightfall when they would come down and rummage through the manure pile and scavenge for any feed the horses might have left. Unfortunately, pigs multiply very quickly, and they had no fear of humans. After a few years, they became so destructive and dangerous that the rangers hired hunters to thin the herds. These were domestic pigs that had gone wild, not native species, so they really didn’t belong there.
One year we had an unusual happening. I always kept our saddles and equipment next to our horses, covered with a tarp to protect them from the elements. One morning, I went down to feed and discovered my nice new blue tarp had disappeared. I searched all over the horse area but couldn’t find it. Some people had left after dark the night before, but I couldn’t imagine why they would take it. It was a real head-scratcher.
Later that morning as we rode out of camp and up the opposite hill, I happened to notice a patch of blue off to my left. We went over to investigate, and I discovered a ripped-up, mud-stained, blue rag that once had been my crisp, shiny tarp. Apparently the pigs had made off with it and proceeded to destroy it. I never could figure out if maybe a boar had hooked a tusk through one of the grommets and couldn’t get it loose, or if the pigs had simply decided to play with it. It couldn’t have been an easy task to drag it through a hole in an old fence and approximately a quarter of mile up the hill, but they did it. After that I kept our tack in our trailer. I didn’t want anything else to go missing.
Do you have a special spot in nature where you like to spend time? A great place to ride or hike? An unusual encounter with wildlife? Tell us about it.