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Scenic hikes, horseback riding at Jack London State Historic Park

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 | Posted by

Guided horseback tours have returned to Jack London State Historic Park, where trails are among the most scenic in the country.

Hikers and history buffs are among the regular visitors at Jack London State Historic Park, where several upcoming events are expected to draw even more guests to the author and adventurer’s Beauty Ranch in Glen Ellen.

A wildflower walk, a family birding event and horseback riding are the latest offerings at the park. Recently, piano concerts and a funk-punk band entertained guests at the historic park that had been threatened with closure due to state budget cuts.

The first in a series of spring wildflower walks will be held from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 9 led by park naturalists Deborah Large and John Lynch.

The easy three and a half-mile hike encompasses the lake loop, quarry and vineyard trails. Visitors will spot trillium, fairy bells, redwood sorrel, shooting stars, star lily, milkmaids, hounds tongue, buttercups, Indian warrior, California poppies and calypso orchids.

Participants should wear sturdy shoes and bring binoculars, cameras, water and a light snack.

The park will join with Sonoma Birding to celebrate spring with a family-friendly bird-a-thon for kids from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Sunday, March 24.

Children from 8 to 15 will discover and identify from 20 to 25 species of resident and visiting birds in the park’s habitats.

Participants will receive a customized birding list and learn birding basics during a “binocular boot camp” and orientation.

The hike will be led by Sonoma Birding co-founders Tom Rusert and Darren Peterie.

“It is exciting to see kids along with their parents getting outdoors, enjoying nature and learning more about our feathered friends,” Rusert said. “And Sonoma Valley is a wonderful place to bird and there is an amazing amount of diversity here year round.”

No birding experience is necessary.

The bird-a-thon concludes with a tabulation celebration.

“It is definitely a challenge to discover and identify 20 to 25 birds in 90 minutes, so this opportunity at Jack London park is really special,” Peterie said.

An adult must accompany each child. Space is limited to 12 children and 12 adults.

Participants should wear hiking shoes and warm clothing and bring binoculars, a snack and water. A spotting scope and Western Field Guide are suggested.

The cost for both programs is $10 per person. There is an additional $10 parking fee at the park.

For those who prefer visiting the park on horseback as London once did, Triple Creek Horse Outfit offers guided tours through 20 miles of park trails.

The horse company is once again based at the park after moving elsewhere when budget cuts seemed imminent is closing the park.

Sonoma Valley natives Erin Ellis and Dominic Bettinelli established Triple Creek Horse Outfit in 2003. They operated horseback tours at Jack London park for seven years before moving the operation to Kunde Estate Family Winery in 2011.

They’re now back in the saddle where Jack London park is known for some of the best riding trails in the country, past acres of vineyards and through open oak woodlands and shady redwood groves.

“Jack London’s ranch not only has rich history and scenic beauty,” Ellis said, “but the variety in the trails, alongside world-class vineyards, among towering redwoods, through golden meadows and bubbling creeks, makes it absolutely the best place to ride a horse of anywhere I know.”

For prices or information about horseback tours, call 887-8700 or visit triplecreekhorseoutfit.com.

The park is located at 2400 London Ranch Road.

– Dianne Reber Hart

Writer Spotlight

Dianne Reber Hart is our Sonoma correspondent.

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