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. Little did they know that they’d found the remnants of an orchard originally planted in 1908 and later abandoned.
In 2002, some 40 acres of orchards became part of the park. In 2017, with support from California State Parks, 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, Sept. 11, nature and history lovers can learn more about this remarkable project and visit the newly reclaimed orchard.
Metz will start the day with a presentation in the ranch parking lot on the history and progress of the orchard. The group will then have the option to take a medium-effort, six-mile (round trip) hike to the orchard for a for a personalized tour of the various areas that have been given a new lease on life to learn more about the unique challenges they 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.
The outing begins at 9 am and is $15 (after entry fee). Reservations: https://jacklondonpark.com/events/orchard-restoration/.