Sunday, May 4, 2008

Jack London State Park

"I write for no other reason then to add to the beauty
that now belongs to me. I write a book for no other reason
then to add three or four hundred acres to my magnificent estate."
-Jack London

Locale: Jack London State Park, Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, CA
Date: Saturday, May 3, 2008
Duration: ~6 miles (took us 3.5 hours)
Price: $6
All in All: A hike that takes you back into the early 1900's
Rating: ****
Maps and more info:
For those who have read London's most famous books ("Call of the Wild", "White Fang") in school to those who are avid London fans and even to those whom never heard of Jack London, this hike offers a great treat. Nearly one hundred years ago, London bought this 1400 acre ranch in Glen Ellen along for almost $27,000 with his second wife Charmian. It was his dream home that brought charm, happy memories and tragedy as well. A few days before the couple was to move in, a fire took place burning their original plan of the home. Later they moved into the wooden cottage which is found near the parking lot.

The London's Cottage.

To get to Glen Ellen (a small quaint town with cute restaurants and shops named after Jack London) get onto CA 37 from either Hwy 80 east or from 101 N, from 37 get onto CA 121 and go straight for about 7 miles, continue straight at a 76 station onto Arnold Drive. This is also CA 116. Follow this into Glen Ellen which will be about 9 miles after the gas station. On your left go to London Ranch Road and follow it to the kiosk.

Feel free to first park in the lot on the left of the kiosk. Here will be the museum, grave sites, and wolf house. Visit the museum for some really interesting tidbits about the Londons. The House of Happy Walls was built following Jack London's death by his wife. There are rooms with her old clothes, artifacts from their adventures, helpful park employees and even an opportunity to buy or peruse his books. After leaving here follow the signs to the grave site. It's about .5 miles from the museum.

At the grave site, look to your right. You will see a picketed fenced square with two grave stones (most likely the original wooden markers). These two siblings were young children who died in the 1800's. Their names were David and Lillie Greenslaw who were pioneer children living on the ranch. Illness cut their lives short. London found these graves one day and soon announced to his family that when he died he wished to just be buried in this place with a boulder over him. This is precisely what happened in 1916 when 39 year old London perished in his cottage. Some still believe suicide was the root of his early death but his death certificate states uremic poisoning. Charmian placed his ashes nearby and placed a boulder over them. In 1955, Charmian died at the ranch and also had her ashes buried here.

From here, if you like may continue .15 miles to the wolf house then follow the road back to the parking lot. Once back at the lot you may either drive or walk to the other parking lot on the right side of the kiosk where you drove in. Follow the path up past the picnic benches and grills and you will now see barns and London's cottage. Proceed into the house and donate a few bucks to the save a park foundation who are trying to earn money to restore London's lake.

London's writing room.

Apart from the front desk and tourists in modern day clothing, it is exactly the same as it would've been ninety years ago. The hallway especially feels as if you were transported through time. The writing room caught my attention the most. On the right there was his safe where he put his drafts in case of fire and on the left was a sleeping porch in which he died. After leaving the cottage, tour the area and look at the barns, the old workers' quarters, and what is that? Cacti?
London did many experiments on his farm, many failed, including growing spineless cacti for the horses. Read the sign at this site for more interesting insights before continuing on the main path past the vineyard.
Past the vineyard, tour the pig palace and silos and return to lake trail. Continue on Lake Trail for about a half a mile then continue on it by turning right at the cattle gate. Climb slightly up another half mile until you reach the lake at the right (you'll have to climb a small grade to see it). Here is where London took his guests fishing and swimming. Today it looks very unappealing. It's full of moss and sediment. It has shrunk to half it's size. There are brochures if you wish to help donate money to restore the lake.
After the lake follow Mountain Trail. The next 2.5 miles to the summit of the park. Sonoma Mountain actually continues passed the park on private land. We actually went about 2/3 of the way up Mountain Trail which is actually not too steep for being labeled a 'mountain' until we saw a sign stating the summit was closed for restoration. We were going to continue anyways but were short on time as the park closes at 5. We were disappointed that there wasn't a sign at the lake but never the less we continued back down through the redwoods. If you wish to reach the summit, ask or call ahead to see if it's open. On the right you will see Quarry Trail, go on it for about .5 miles and then turn left on Vineyard Trail and Vineyard Rd until you get to a cougar crossing. Continue up the bank until you're back at the lake. From here go back the way you came back to the parking lot.
Leaving the park, we stopped at Jack London Village for dinner and free chocolate samples. It hit the spot after a nice hike that took us back into literary history. I encourage you to do the same. We ate at Bluegrass Restaurant presumably known for their great BBQ. After the first few hundred yards of hiking a new why London called his ranch magnificent. With all the wildlife and acres of redwoods just feet from my front door, I would be content as well.

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