Jack London State Park

Jack London State ParkJack London is the heart of the Sonoma Valley just as Robert Louis Stevenson belongs to Napa.

London, calling himself a sailor on horseback after he settled in the Valley of the Moon, loved the land of Glen Ellen and Sonoma.   Jack was an adventurer and wild-hair journalist who travelled the globe, but it was here that he settled with his soul mate, Charmian London.  He nurtured the land, wrote books, and invented new farming techniques.

Jack London was a Bay Area local boy, the son of an astrologer.  He was a reporter, newsman, socialist, gold prospector and magazine writer.  He did everything he could to support his family, and took job after job, including being an oyster pirate.  When he hit the big-time as an author, the money rolled in and Jack settled in the same way he had travelled—with all his heart.

London and his wife bought a 1,400 acre ranch with a small ranch house, and began building his dream home – Wolf House.  An extraordinary place that feels as if it rose straight out of the earth, it had 26 rooms, an indoor pool, and nine fireplaces.  As the furniture was being moved in, the house burned down.  Three years later Jack died of kidney failure after writing 51 books.  He was 40 years old when he died and was America’s first millionaire author.

Charmian built her home on the property after his death, and called it the House of Happy Walls. As she wished, it is now a state park.  Walk inside the house. Inside are the things they gathered as they sailed the ocean for more than a year.  There are photos, film footage of Jack London, a collection of his first-edition books, and mind-boggling photos.  There are also the everyday things that make a life.

You can feel the energy and lust for life inside these walls.  You can also feel the strength of the ties that held Charmian and Jack together.  They were true partners.  In this way, the house is also a testament to love.

It is just up the hill from Benziger Winery in Glen Ellen.  Turn into the parking lot.  Wander the grounds and feel the peace and the surge of the earth’s creative energy.  Bring food and have a picnic.  Explore the ruins of Wolf House and the House of Happy Walls.  This is a very good place to slow down and understand the magic of the Valley of the Moon.

Writer: Meredith Blevins, featured travel writer for the Authentic Wine Country.  Join her at www.blevinswordworx.com for wine-country mysteries, classes, and the untamed west.

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