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I ride over my beautiful ranch. Between my legs is a beautiful horse.
The air is wine. The grapes on a score of rolling hills are red with autumn flame.
Across Sonoma Mountain, wisps of sea fog are stealing.
The afternoon sun smolders in the drowsy sky.
I have everything to make me glad I am alive. -- Jack London
So rhapsodized the famous author while horseback riding on his beloved Beauty Ranch near Glen Ellen, in Sonoma County’s Valley of the Moon. We spent a recent Saturday walking, rather than riding, around this place, yet shared the famous author’s sentiments. The sublime landscape near the foot of Sonoma Mountain and above the valley and charming historic buildings were part of the reason.
Jack London's office at Beauty Ranch, Glen Ellen
But perhaps equally important was our docent and guide, Stewart, who painted an intimate portrait of life here during the time of London and his wife, Charmian. Stewart is a volunteer who grew-up in the area and knew London’s widow who died in 1955. He was speaking from personal experience.
We were invited here, as members of Bay Area Travel Writers, by Valley of the Moon Natural History Association who now operates the 1400-acre ranch as Jack London State Historic Park. The Natural History Association was the first non-profit organization to take responsibility for one of California’s State Parks during the budget crisis that threatened to close dozens of them. We are happy to report that this beautiful and historic place is in caring and capable hands.
Benzinger Winery in Glen Ellen
Benziger Family Winery makes a fitting next-door neighbor to the park, its hillside vineyards seeming to flame in autumn, its biodynamic farming practices reflective of London’s experimental organic farming techniques. But whereas London’s Beauty Ranch never turned a profit as an agricultural operation, the Benziger family has very successfully honed their approach to produce a line of outstanding wines perfectly reflective of place and time.
It’s hard to imagine a better day than one spent hiking or picnicking with friends and family at Jack London State Historic Park and swirling and sniffing some recent vintages at Benziger’s tasting room. As London might say, it’s enough to make one glad to be alive.
For More Information:
Jack London State Historic Park: www.jacklondonpark.com
Benziger Family Winery: www.benziger.com
I find that Jack London's cottage is such an endearing place, even moving, if you're a London fan. And the hiking trails are legendary--"like California used to be."