|London's office in the cottage|
The Jack London park is named, of course, for the writer who lived on this property for the last eleven years of his life with his beloved and perhaps equally adventurous second wife, Charmian. When Jack London died in 1916, at age of 40, he left behind a tremendous body of work including Call of the Wild, White Fancy, and The Sea Wolf.
His early years were adventure-filled--time at sea, traveling to the Yukon, working in the fields and farms of California. Eventually he "tired of cities and people, [and] settled down on a little farm...130 acres of the most beautiful, primitve [sic] land to be found in California." London soon bought up neighboring farms and the park is now 1,400 acres with more than 20 miles of hiking trails.
Our time was limited, so we focused on the The Cottage, where Jack and Charmian lived, and the adjoining building, which contained the kitchen and dining room. The cottage was both charming and fun. One of the displays that I particularly liked reflected Jack's great sense of humor. He loved playing practical jokes on unsuspecting guests. One that he enjoyed involved attaching a couple of ropes to a bed in the guest bedroom. Then, after the guest had gone to bed for the night, Jack and a friend would start yelling "earthquake" and then begin pulling the ropes so that the bed would slide across the floor to the opposite wall.
To do justice to all that Jack London park has to offer, one should allow several hours. Time to see The Cottage, Beauty Ranch (including the Pig Palace), the House of Happy Walls (the museum), the Jack London gravesite (with remains of both Jack and Charmian), the remains of Wolf House (the dream house that Jack and Charmian had built, but which was lost in a fire mere hours before they planned to move in).
You can take a guided walk with docents to see the main buildings that will last about 1-1/2 hours, or you can take one of the strenuous, rather steep, hikes like the one to the top of Sonoma Mountain, which is 8+ miles and climbs to a magnificent viewpoint.
There's always something special going on at Jack London State Historic Park--right now there's a Transcendence Theatre Company production called "Broadway under the Stars" being presented in the outdoor theater. On August 12, there will be free entrance (normally $10 vehicle/$5 walk in) to the park with a program about reptiles by the Sonoma County Reptile Rescue. The cottage visit has a separate fee (normally $2 senior/youth, $4 adult, free under 12). And from now until October 3, 2013, Jack London Park will be open late on the third Thursday of the month for "Picnic 'Til Sundwon Days. (The park is normally open 9:30-5:00). Click here for more special events
Jack London State Historic Park was saved from closure by Jack London Park Partners, a project of Valley of the Moon Natural History Association. The park is located at 2400 London Ranch Rd., Glen Ellen, CA 95442. (707) 938-5216.
In the next post about Sonoma County, you'll learn about biodynamic and organic wine making at the Benziger Family Winery.
Click here for park map.
Google directions to Jack London park, click here.