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Know the West

But wait, there’s more

Lit-touring in California and beyond.

Here are a few suggestions for further Lit-Touring in California and beyond.


Mark Twain
(The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Roughing It)

Twain spent the winter of 1864-1865 in a miner’s cabin on Jackass Hill, west of Tuttletown, California — the heart of Gold Country. (You can imagine the fun he had with those names.) During his stay he heard the yarn that he immortalized in “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” the short story that launched his writing career. The original cabin burned down long ago, but a replica has been built around the old fireplace and chimney.


Robert Louis Stevenson
(Treasure Island, Kidnapped)

Stevenson traveled from his native Scotland to California by steamship and train in 1879. The trip broke his often-precarious health (and his wallet), and when he finally got to Monterey, he holed up in a two-story adobe, then known as the French Hotel. While recuperating, he courted his future wife, strolled the nearby headlands, and wrote “The Old Pacific Capital.” Now part of Monterey State Historic Park, the restored hotel, called the Stevenson House, has a few rooms devoted to “Stevensonia.”


John Steinbeck
(Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath)

Steinbeck’s childhood home, a Queen Anne-style Victorian, was built in Salinas, California, in 1897. For 50 years, it’s been open to the public as a restaurant featuring local produce; you can request a docent talk when you make your reservation. The National Steinbeck Center, a museum inspired by the author’s relationship with the Salinas Valley’s land and people, is located just two blocks away.


Mary Austin
(The Land of Little Rain, Earth Horizon)

It’s about time a woman broke up the boy’s club! Unfortunately, Austin’s home in Independence, California — “the brown house under the willow-tree at the end of the village street” — is not open to the public (though a plaque identifies it as California Historical Landmark No. 229). The Owens Valley, on the east side of the Sierra Nevada, was Austin’s home for many years and the inspiration for her pioneering environmental writing. The Eastern California Museum, within spitting distance, has a permanent Austin exhibit.


And for those who are Californiaphobic…

The cabin of the prolific Zane Grey, east of Payson, Arizona, saw upwards of 20,000 visitors a year through much of the 20th century, until it burned in 1990. A somewhat suburban-looking replica has since replaced it. Vardis Fisher, author of Mountain Man (which became the 1972 Robert Redford film Jeremiah Johnson), lived in Hagerman Valley, Idaho, and the ruins of his house are today part of Thousand Springs State Park. There’s an Ernest Hemingway Memorial in Ketchum, Idaho. And then there’s Mabel Dodge Luhan, a wealthy patron who established an arts colony in Taos, New Mexico in 1919. Her guest list was impressive: Willa Cather, Georgia O’Keeffe, Ansel Adams, not to mention Austin and Jeffers. The English novelist D.H. Lawrence visited, later buying his own ranch nearby (a shrine on site holds his ashes). The Lawrence Ranch is administered by the University of New Mexico, and the Mabel Dodge Luhan House is a historic inn.

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Masters of Dig: A tour of authorial abodes