Jack London: Beauty Ranch

I’m not sure “what” I’m going to find “where”
as it is filled with glimpses of the past and lushness of the present.

The “it” is Jack London State Historic Park, a place of peace and a place of energy.Jack London Pond

Technically, it comes in two main parts: Beauty Ranch and the Wolf House.

Let’s talk about the Ranch first. Jack and Charmian London escaped the city life in Oakland, came to the north end of the Sonoma Valley in 1905, and started buying property.  In 1911, they purchased a cottage and a couple of winery buildings up the hill from Glen Ellen and within a couple of years they had 1400 acres. Jack had ideas about modern ranching, though it never included motorized machinery. He had the Pig Palace built and worked with Luther Burbank. Some of his ideas succeeded and some didn’t (as in planting 100k eucalyptus seeds – the wrong variety for lumber).

He took a break from ranching to sail the South Seas, until illness forced him to return in 1907 and took another “break” as a war correspondent in Mexico in 1914.

The expense of his ranch and his ambitious ideas required that he write. He was the rock star of his day – a famous writer of adventure stories. And write he did, every day at a reputed pace of 1,000 words a day. (This post is only about 500 words.) The rest of his day was spent in general ranch activities, entertaining guests, horseback-riding all over his property, and swimming in a lake up the hill. He was also a prankster and enjoyed drinking.

When I visit this part of the park, I can see the work. Here are the farm buildings and the cactus he developed with Luther Burbank. The cactus was meant to act as feed for cattle – but the spines returned in the next generation of the plants.London Ranch Buildings Cactus


Pig Palace – oh yeah, it’s work, but I love the setting. I could live here.

Jack London Pig Palace
Meanwhile back to the cottage on Beauty Ranch, where Jack played and wrote and slept.

Jack London cottage sleeping porch


Inside, it’s a workspace more than sleeping porch.

Writing line

More office (Charmian typed his work) and ranch control center than vacation spot.

Jack London office

Do you see what I mean? Is this a place for work or one of beauty? Writing or inspiration? Or horsing around?

Guest house and winery


jack London pirate

So maybe I don’t know what I’ll find here, but I will be inspired.

See you on the trail! – Lynn

Words by Lynn Millar, photos by Mike and Lynn Millar

By the way: The Valley of the Moon Natural History Association has done a wonderful job managing this park. (They took over from the neglectful State of California in 2012.) Improvements are everywhere. Pay them your respect (and money) when you visit the park. Explore on your own or join a tour. Also visit their website – it’s packed with information. Jack London Park.  For directions, hours and fees, click where. (You can use your state parks pass. Admission to the cottage is extra.)

Published by Lynn Millar

Walker, reader, writer, traveller - see About Walking

10 thoughts on “Jack London: Beauty Ranch

  1. Lynne, as always, your posts are wonderful, but this one is especially…such terrific views of that peaceful & historically important spot in our incredible county. Thank you!

  2. Lynn, what a beautiful post-I work with Jack London Park and was so struck by your words that I shared this on the Park’s Facebook page. And, just wanted to let you know that Oct. 5 the Park will host a Sustainability Farm Festival connecting Jack’s farming experiments from 1915 with the innovations of today-since you discovered what he was doing during your visit, thought you might be interested in that. Hope to see you again at the Park. And certainly enjoy all your other walks!

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