Jack London State Historic Park

On Saturday, May 11th, the East Bay Barefoot Hikers met with the newly formed North Bay Barefoot Hikers (leader: Barbara Stockton) for their inaugural hike at Jack London State Historic Park in Sonoma County.

Ten people took part including myself, Tim and his kids Christopher (7), the twins Jonathan and Hilary (5), Peter, Barbara and her son Sean (11), Norma and her son Jeffrey (10).

Jack London Park is set in the Sonoma wine country (also known as The Valley of the Moon) to the west of the (more famous) Napa Valley.

Tim, his kids, Peter and I carpooled up from the Concord / Walnut Creek area and arrived early enough to take in the Jack London Museum which is set in the Park. This contains lots of interesting memorabilia including issues of "The Call of the Wild" translated into many other languages.

My group headed over to the trail-head at about 1:00pm to meet up with the North Bay folks. Shortly, Barbara and Sean arrived, closely followed by Norma and Jeffrey. Introductions were made and we set off on the lake trail. The first section was just a little stony, but mostly dust. The ground was fairly warm though, causing the beginners to rush towards shady patches.

After about 15 minutes we entered the deep part of the forest and felt much cooler. The trail turned to deep, soft layers of redwood pine-needles. There were some awesome effects of light shining through the towering trees. I tried to get a decent picture framed in my camera ... but gave up. I just couldn't get a wide enough angle.

We arrived at the lake. This is an artificial lake created via a small dam built by Jack London back in 1910(?). He built it basically in order to create a swimming-hole. There are picnic tables and a dilapidated (sealed-off from public entrance) "bath-house" there. Perfect for a lunch stop.

After eating, the adults sat and chatted while the kids poked around by the lakeside. The water looked extremely inviting despite having large areas of pond-weed and rushes. I decided to go for a wade. In my shorts, I got up to almost wetting them. The temperature was just perfect. The bottom of the lake felt like a mixture of sand and mud. The people back at the picnic table called out "Are going to swim ?". I threw my t-shirt up onto the bank and decided that my walking shorts would dry easily enough in that weather.

It felt marvellous !!. Sean, Jeffrey, Christopher, Jonathan and Hillary played at the edge wading through the mud and weeds and climbing up on half-submerged trees. There were two other boys there belonging to a rather shod-looking family. One of them stood at the edge of the water in his athletic shoes looking wistfully at the barefoot hiker kids playing in the water. I heard him mutter "I want to take my shoes off". I had the feeling that it wasn't worth him bothering to ask his parents. So sad.

After some swimming, I led an expedition (with most of the kids in tow) to circumnavigate the lake. We had to turn back about two thirds of the way around due to the trail disappearing.

The party eventually tore itself away from the lake and headed back towords the parking lot via a different route, taking in Jack Londons cottage and the winery ruins on the way. The cottage custodian was surprised we had been hiking in bare feet. We gave her the usual speil. The wooden floors of the cottage felt really nice after the hot trail outside. There are some other attractions in this park, one of them being Wolf House. This large elaborate mansion unfortunately burned the week before the Londons were due to move in. Jeffrey (who had apparently been very reluctant to come on the hike) kept trying to find ways to extend the visit ... "Yes, Yes !! let's go there".

We'll have to visit Wolf House the next time.

Barbara is planning to lead her next hike before the end of June.

-- Mike Berrow
-- East Bay Barefoot Hikers

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