If there’s one man who knew how to live life to the fullest, it was Jack London. The legendary author not only wrote amazing tales of adventure, he actually lived them. He journeyed to Alaska long before cruise ships were created, and he sailed a small boat clear to the South Pacific with his wife, Charmain, at his side.
Get to know Jack by visiting Jack London Historic Park, site of the couple’s ranch, pig farm and last home. The park is one of California’s best kept secrets. You’ll find it near Glen Ellen in the Valley of the Moon, about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco.
The House of Happy Walls Museum was built by Charmian after Jack’s death in 1916. In it, you’ll discover displays of the pair’s fascinating souvenirs brought back from their extensive overseas travels. The South Pacific, in particular, is featured, and hand-carved wood statues form integral parts of their one-of-a-kind staircase. Charmian moved into this impressive stone and wood building after Jack passed on. Her 1901 Steinway grand piano occupies prime real estate on the second floor and is played by park volunteers most weekends.
Wolf House, or what remains of it, is undoubtedly the park’s most astonishing structure. The massive house was meant to be the London’s home. It was also meant to house their large collection of arts and artifacts. Unfortunately, just as it was completed, Wolf House was destroyed by fire. Only the stone walls were left standing. On the bright side, the collections had not yet been moved to the new location and, fortunately, survived for today’s visitors to enjoy.
The Cottage stands in another area of the park, not far from the horse and sherry barns. It was in this modest home that London hammered out his stories on a classic typewriter. The kitchen and dining room are in a separate building next door and were the site of many lively parties.
You can tour all three buildings, wander down a trail to the Pig Palace and see the old farm silos. Bring a picnic lunch, and plan to spend the day.
Once you’re home, find a copy of “The Call of the Wild” to read, or the movie “White Fang” to watch. After seeing Jack London’s home, you’ll appreciate his writing even more.