Literature Lovers’ Hike: Eugene O’Neill’s Tao House

eugene oneill

Where: Danville, CA (approximately 31 miles east of San Francisco)

Note: This property can only be accessed on foot or by a National Park Service shuttle.

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Take a leisurely hike through the Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. Follow either the Williams or Madrone Trail to where they junction at a fire road leading to the back of Eugene O’Neill’s old property. Enter the gate and walk past the final resting place of Blemie, O’Neill’s elderly Dalmatian.

The residence, Tao House, sits on a one-hundred-and-fifty-eight acre property that was once part of the Rancho San Ramon Mexican land grant. Many of the almond and walnut trees that Eugene and Carlotta O’Neill planted are still here. Except for Saturdays, entrance to this National Historic Site is by reservation only.

A black gate (pictured above) leading to the courtyard is decorated with four Taoist characters, Dao, Da, Bie, and Shu. Navigate the zigzag path directly beyond to arrive at the house’s main entryway. Inside the first floor guest room are two wall murals titled, The Mountains of Mist. Although they are representative of the Chinese countryside, they also remind me of the California mountains — Las Trampas Ridge and Mount Diablo — both visible from either side of the property.

ACTIVITIES: Hike, Art (Literature)

REGION: East Bay

HOURS: Varies: depends on whether you are doing a guided or self-guided tour. For details visit: http://www.nps.gov/euon/planyourvisit/hours.htm

COST: Free

LOCATION/VENUE: National Park Service, Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site, 1000 Kuss Road, Danville, CA 94526 Phone: (925) 838-0249

DIRECTIONS: Hiking: 5.9 miles (moderate, 3 hour hike) through the Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. Start your hike at the west end of Hemme Avenue in Danville. Take the Ringtail Cat and Madrone Trails to Tao House. Enter through the back gate near the barn.

Shuttle: The National Park Service’s  shuttle picks visitors up at The Museum of the San Ramon Valley in Danville. For details visit: http://www.nps.gov/euon/planyourvisit/directions.htm

TIP: If you visit in the late spring – early to mid-May – be sure to catch one of the plays being hosted in The Old Barn/Playwrights’ Theatre. The 2012 lineup included a recently discovered one-act play, Exorcism, that was thought to have been destroyed by the author in 1920. It is based on O’Neill’s 1913 suicide attempt. Don’t forget to get a first hand look at the replica of O’Neill’s 1936 Nobel Prize before you leave. It is the only Nobel Prize to have been awarded to an American playwright. See the National Park Service’s Web site, http://www.nps.gov/euon, for more information on arranging a visit to Tao House, the home where O’Neill penned his final plays, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, The Iceman Cometh, and A Moon for the Misbegotten.

Additional: Here is a short video about Tao House: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMheCcsBYb0

A slightly different version of this hike appeared in my Bay Area Adventures Summer 2012 blog post.

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