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Wild Centennial 

Park invites North Bay to live as large as region's most famous author

click to enlarge A 365-DAY PARTY Jack London State Park honors namesake's legacy with a year's worth of events.
  • A 365-DAY PARTY Jack London State Park honors namesake's legacy with a year's worth of events.

Author and wild man Jack London packed in 10 lifetimes' worth of travels and tales in his brief 40 years on earth.

The longtime Sonoma County resident counted gold prospector, war correspondent and even oyster pirate on his list of occupations, though it was his writing that made him a millionaire and allowed him to purchase and live out his days on what is now Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen.

London died on Nov. 22, 1916. For 2016, the park is honoring his memory and life with a yearlong celebration. "Discover Your Call of the Wild" is the park's invitation to the public to partake in hikes, attend film screenings and readings, and enjoy special concert events throughout the year.

"We want to celebrate his legacy," says Tjiska Van Wyk, executive director at Jack London Historic State Park. "These activities and programs will demonstrate the contributions he made in the short 40 years he was alive."

Every month the park will feature a theme that represents aspects of London's character, kicking off next month with the park's challenge to participants to walk 500 miles in 2016.

When London was 21, he sailed to Alaska to join the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897. It was there that his most famous books, The Call of the Wild and White Fang, got their inspiration. The park is reflecting the 500 miles London trekked in Alaska's Yukon Territory with the "Klondike Challenge," open to anyone willing to take it on.

"We really want to encourage people, through London and his stories, to be inspired, to dream, to live their life to the fullest, as he did," says Van Wyk.

"We feel like we've laid the foundation for a celebration of the man and what the park now offers to the community," she says.

Van Wyk is especially looking forward to "The Great Read," a partnership between Oakland and Sonoma Valley libraries in the fall that acts like a Bay Area–wide book club. Thousands of students will read White Fang, and join scholars in school-wide discussion groups. The park is also hosting student writing contests.

For adults, piano concerts and special celebrity readings are all on the schedule. The park's summer concerts with the Transcendence Theatre Company, Broadway Under the Stars, is getting into the spirit as well, planning a series inspired by London's exploits.

There will also be demonstrations of London's pioneering sustainable farming on the park's Beauty Ranch, and the park will be taking advantage of its 1,400 acres and almost 29 miles of newly restored trails with several special interest hikes that will highlight London's favorite spots where he drew inspiration and wrote his most enduring works.

'Discover Your Call of the Wild' at Jack London State Historic Park throughout 2016. 707.938.5216. jacklondonpark.com.

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