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More to Muir than the great outdoors

MARTINEZ -- Situated on the southside of the Carquinez Strait, the city of Martinez -- childhood hometown of Joltin' Joe DiMaggio -- is a mixture of manufacturing with its Shell Oil refinery and modernization with the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center.Martinez also offers a chance to visit a historic home and bit of nature at the John Muir National Historic Site.

Muir is often referred to as the father of the national park system. His efforts in preservation of America's park lands and his founding of the Sierra Club have allowed many to enjoy the wonders of nature. Muir spent many years traveling the nation and later in life settled on a 2,600 acre farm in Martinez which is now the home of the John Muir National Historic site.

The 14-room Victorian home which stands at the historical site is where John Muir lived from 1890 until his death in 1914. Visiting the Muir site guests can enjoy viewing the house and its period furniture including a scribble desk which Muir used to pen over 300 articles and publications. The desk is one of just a few pieces which are original to the time when Muir and his family inhabited the grounds.

Self-guided tours are available along with guided tours which last approximately 30 minutes. Guests to the site can view a short film about the life of John Muir which is available in the visitors center and also enjoy the 1849 Martinez Adobe building which also sits at the site.

Along with the structures, guests can wander Mt. Wanda, named for Muir's eldest daughter and enjoy strolling the 326 acre oak woodland at the site. About 9 acres of fruit orchards surround the property and hiking to the top of Mt. Wanda is about one mile.

Taking a picnic along gives visitors a chance to sit, relax and enjoy the nature that John Muir worked so hard to preserve.

WHERE: 4202 Alhambra Avenue, Martinez

WHEN: Muir House is open Wednesday through Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; self-guided tours during business hours, docent-guided tours Wednesday through Friday 2 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 2 and 3 p.m.; Mt. Wanda open for hiking 7 days a week, sunrise to sunset.

COST: Admission $3 (ages 15 and under free if accompanied by an adult)

GETTING THERE: From the Modesto area, take Interstate 580 over the Altamont Pass (Tracy to Livermore) and continue to Dublin. Take Interstate 680 north toward Sacramento. North of Concord, take Highway 4 west toward Richmond. Exit at Alhambra Avenue.

DRIVE TIME: 1 hour, 23 minutes (Mapquest)

MORE INFORMATION: 925-228-8860, www.nps.gov/jomu/index.htm

Bee assistant librarian Karen Aiello can be reached at kaiello@modbee.com or 578-2392.

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