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So much to do at Jack London State Historic Park

Historic orchard hike, Mother’s Day piano concert on the slate
So much to do at Jack  London State Historic Park
An aerial view of the old orchard at Jack London State Historic Park March 8, 2022.Photo by Paul Goguen


For years, hikers to the southeastern portion of Jack London State Historic Park have come across an open area with overgrown vegetation and beautiful views of the Valley of the Moon.

In 2002, some 40 acres of orchards, formerly Sonoma Developmental Center property, became part of the park. In 2017, with support from California State Parks, Jack London State Historic Park’s Operations Director Eric Metz and a group of volunteer land stewards continued assessing and reversing the years of neglect. They found that, while many of the trees had died, some were still alive and bearing fruit. With a combination of agricultural expertise and tender loving care, the orchard was on its way toward a full recovery.

“The original goal of reviving the orchard was preserving the cultural landscape. The produce was just a happy side effect,” Metz said. “We wanted to keep these trees alive — and grow more like them — to preserve an example of a pre-World War II orchard for future generations. Fruit isn’t grown this way anymore.”

Today these revitalized trees are producing a bounty of fruit, including several varieties of apples and pears, prune plums, apricots, cherries, and quince. Jack London State Historic Park has now formed a partnership with Farm to Pantry to glean the fruit from the orchard and deliver it to Sonoma organizations that help people facing food insecurity.

On Saturday, April 23, from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., nature and history lovers can learn more about this remarkable project and visit the newly reclaimed orchard to see both the rejuvenation and springtime bloom as the work continues.

Metz will start the day with a presentation on the history and progress of the orchard rehabilitation, which will be presented in the park’s ranch parking lot. Group participants will then have the option to take a medium-effort, six-mile (round trip) hike to the orchard for a personalized tour of the various areas that have been given a new lease on life. Participants will learn more about the unique challenges park volunteers and operators had to overcome to revitalize the different areas, such as no access to water.

Those planning to take the hike should bring water, hiking poles, a snack, dress in layers, and wear sturdy shoes.

Meet in the ranch parking lot (turn right after the entry kiosk) at 9 a.m. The event is $15 plus the $10 park entry fee.

Mother’s Day piano concert

Treat your mom, family, and friends to a refreshing afternoon of beautiful piano music that will renew your spirit and your mom’s heart. The Jack London Volunteer Piano Club will present a special Mother’s Day Springtime Piano Concert, with a program designed for all musical tastes, on Sunday, May 8.

Spend the day at the park, starting with an inspiring hike on one of its 30 miles of trails, or take the free 11 a.m. docent tour to the Wolf House. After the concert, end the day with a yummy dinner at one of the dining venues in the Sonoma Valley. It will be a day to remember!

The piano concert will take place on Charmian London’s 1901 Steinway baby grand piano on the second floor of the House of Happy Walls museum.

Even before she met Jack London, Charmian was an accomplished pianist. She initially purchased the 1901 Steinway on an installment plan. After receiving a hefty sum from his publisher, Jack gave Charmian $500 to finish the payments and bring the piano to the ranch, where it became the center of entertainment for the Londons’ many guests.

Refreshments will be served outdoors under the portico at intermission. Admission is $20, which includes the park’s parking fee.

Since 2011, the Piano Club has presented quarterly concerts, raising over $20,000 to benefit operations at the park.

So much to do at Jack  London State Historic Park
An aerial view of the old orchard at Jack London State Historic Park March 8, 2022. Photo by Paul Goguen