View of the garden from Jack London's cottage. Beyond the fence is a vineyard growing rows of wine grapes.
My favorite state park in all of California
My favorite state park in California, and I live here and have been to dozens of them, is Jack London State Historic Park in Northern California’s Sonoma County. I lived in the nearby town of Sonoma when I was seven to nine years old. As one of my family's all-time favorite places, we've been back many times since we moved away in 1988.
Jack London was an author, and he is one of my top two favorite writers of fiction, along with J.R.R. Tolkien. London's most famous books are The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and The Sea-Wolf. Ironically, the first two stories are about dogs and wolves, and the third is not.
London must have loved wolves, and his mansion built at what is now the state park named after him was The Wolf House. The 15,000-square-foot (1,400 square meters) mansion, with much of it made of stone, burned down in 1913 shortly after it was finished being built. The ruins are a highlight of the park.
Jack London passed away in 1916 at the age of 40 years. He had been battling serious and painful health problems, and his death is thought to have resulted from an overdose of morphine during a bout with a condition called uremia.
One story I like about him was that he had a special place for writing, and on the door he placed a sign that read, "Please do not enter without knocking. Please do not knock."
Location of the park
The park is located less than ten miles (16 km) from the town of Sonoma. Highway 12 runs through Sonoma and then proceeds northwest, and goes to the city of Santa Rosa. Jack London State Historic Park is about halfway between Sonoma and Santa Rosa, west of the highway.
Arnold Road parallels Highway 12 to the west for a few miles as both leave Sonoma to the northwest. Getting to Jack London State Historic Park requires at some point moving over to Arnold Road, which converges with Highway 12 (also called Sonoma Highway) just north of the park.
In an area called Glen Ellen, you go west from Arnold Road on Jack London Ranch Road, which travels about a mile (1.6 km) to the park.
The entire area is beautifully green, with hills and vineyards typical of lovely Sonoma Valley, also called the Valley of the Moon. A short distance to the north are two more excellent state parks, Annadel and Sugarloaf Ridge.
The town of Sonoma has many interesting things to see, including an old Spanish mission, the Vallejo home, Depot Park, and a large square in the middle that’s a park surrounded by shops, restaurants, the Sonoma Jack cheese factory, and more. Sonoma also has Train Town, which is the best miniature train in the world.
This is only a small sampling of the many wonderful things in the area. There’s also the Calistoga geyser, a petrified forest, world-class wineries and vineyards, and plenty more.
The ruins of the massive Wolf House are amazing.
Features of Jack London State Historic Park
The park sits on the eastern slope of Sonoma Mountain, which despite being called a mountain isn’t very large. However, it’s certainly beautiful, green, and peaceful. On the northern side of the mountain there are giant redwood trees.
As mentioned, the park property has Jack London’s custom-built Wolf House, which he never got to live in because it burned down shortly after it was finished being built. He was of course devastated, and other buildings exist on the property where he and his wife lived.
The park also has excellent forested areas with sycamore, oak, fir, and eucalyptus trees, a reservoir with a dam, vineyards, a museum with plenty of interesting stuff that was acquired and owned by London, and the graves of London and his wife.
Each year blackberry bushes in the park have fruit that’s easy to pick and eat as you walk along. The dam at the reservoir can be walked on, as it’s a couple feet wide. Near the reservoir is one of the best picnic sites ever.
Some of the trails permit bicycling and horseback riding. My dad is an avid bicyclist, and still says Jack London State Historic Park is his favorite place ever for off-road bicycling.
These are many of, but not all, the features of this fascinating park.
The House of Happy Walls is a smaller version of the Wolf House, built after Jack London had passed away, and lived in by his widow until 1955. Her instructions were that the house would be used after her death as a museum for Jack London, and today it serves as the park's visitor center, and is a fantastic museum.
Jack London was a very prolific writer
I hope to eventually read more by Jack London than the few stories and novels I’ve already read. I like Call of the Wild and White Fang so much that I’ve read each twice, and I plan to read them again.
He produced about twenty fictional novels in sixteen years of writing, plus dozens of poems, about 100 short stories, and he also wrote three plays, some autobiographical stories, and other non-fiction stories.
Besides the quote I shared in the introduction, which was on a sign on the door of his writing area, there are a few other quotes by Jack London that I really like, some of which show how humorous he could be.