Because many people think of Alaska when they hear the name of Jack London, it can come as a surprise that his home and grave are in California. Or maybe that was just me. Located in Sonoma, near the cute town of Glen Ellen, Jack London State Park is an all day treat.You might want to visit fall, winter or spring though as summer can be brutally hot. London, the author of such well known stories such as The Call of the Wild, White Fang and Sea Wolf, was born and raised in nearby Oakland.
London bought this property in 1911 with his second wife. They lived here in the cottage while their dream home was being built. The dream home was called Wolf House and was to be truly magnificent. Beauty Ranch, as London called the property,was his playground, laboratory, and office. London and his wife were enthusiastic outdoor people, riding horses and hiking all over the property, often entertaining guests there. London was very interested in agriculture and used sustainable practices before those were trendy. Many of his ideas failed but you have to give him points for trying and throwing a lot of money at it.
I particularly enjoyed visiting the cottage where the Londons lived while Wolf House was under construction. There is a short video clip about the cottage and the Londons once you enter. The cottage contains his study, his desk, and most poignantly, the sleeping porch where London died in 1916 as well as his wife’s room. The cottage is a short drive from the museum and grave and has different opening hours and a separate admission price. The flower gardens and views of the vineyard are really lovely there.
Tragically, Wolf House burnt down right before the Londons were to move in. The ruins of the house are starkly beautiful and you can roam around them easily. The path to the ruins is well marked from the museum. The museum is housed in the House of Happy Walls, the home that Mrs. London built after Jack’s death to live in herself and develop as a museum for her husband’s work. The museum has exhibits about London’s travels, especially aboard the Snark. There are items from those travels as well as many editions of his books and photos. There is a gift shop in the museum.
Jack London was cremated and his ashes buried under a rock on a hill,near the graves of two children who had lived on the property before he purchased it. London’s second wife was also buried there after her death in 1955. Charmian London must have been a fascinating person in her own right. You learn a lot about her here at the park and she protected Jack’s legacy well. There is a short walk through the woods and up the hill to the gravesite from the museum.
Because the London home is part of the larger state park, there are picnic tables and several other hiking trails that you can enjoy. There is a per vehicle entrance fee into the state park.
Visiting Jack London State Park is well worth the time. You get a beautiful setting in Sonoma close to many wineries, hiking trails, and lovely picnic spots. The museum, ruins of Wolf House, the cottage and the gravesite all convey a real sense of Jack London and his life there. The docents at the cottage are friendly and knowledgable about London and recommended a recent biography, Jack London: An American Life by Earle Labor as a good place to start reading about London and his unconventional life. Great place to visit and learn more about an American author.