High along the ridge overlooking Jack London's Beauty Ranch, Chuck Levine diverged onto a narrow path that until recently had been overgrown and all but forgotten.
The retired telecommunications executive zigged and zagged upward for several hundred feet through a meadow dotted with oak and bay trees. A few minutes later, a clearing afforded Levine a stunning view of Glen Ellen and the Sonoma Valley.
“It's one of the most beautiful trails in the park,” Levine said.
In the year since the state turned over management of Jack London State Historic Park to a nonprofit, hundreds of volunteers have worked diligently to restore some of the site's former luster.
That includes cleaning up and re-opening miles of historic trails so that visitors to the 1,400-acre park can better experience what London found so enthralling about the area.
“The dim trail,” London wrote in “Valley of the Moon,” “lay like a rambling red shadow cast on the soft forest floor by the great redwoods and over-arching oaks. It seemed as if all the local varieties of trees and vines had conspired to weave the leafy roof.”
Over decades, however, neglect choked off public access to some of the areas along Sonoma Mountain where London loved to meander, often while in the company of his wife, Charmian.
Levine, who is president of the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association, said “the state didn't seem to have interest” in maintaining some of the trails or “the staff to supervise” the work.
That's not been the case with the volunteers who jumped in, rakes in hand, after California State Parks last year turned over management of the historic site to Jack London Park Partners.
The operating agreement was the first of its kind in California under a new law that allowed the state to negotiate with nonprofits, private concessionaires and other groups to keep open some of the 70 state parks that originally were slated to shut by July 1 last year.