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Harbin Hot Springs Review, California.

2007

Harbin Hot Springs Review I have visited Harbin Hot Springs sporadically for the past 20 years.

In 2007 I visited Harbin three times under three very different conditions. The three conditions were:

* Hottest day of the year - too hot to walk on the pavement. Great day!

* A pretty warm day but on a three day holiday weekend - try to avoid the three day weekends. Too many people!

* And finally a cool rainy day on a Sunday in the fall - wonderful but the swimming pool was too cold - at least for me. (More on the great pool later.)

Harbin is a multi-acre facility that is nestled in a series of deep canyons just north of Middletown California. http://www.harbin.org/ . The drive there from the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge takes between one and a half and two and a half hours depending on the traffic and weather. There are several ways to get from San Francisco to Middletown but all of them are twisty and most of them are two-lane roads. My advice is to slow down (at least to the speed limit) and enjoy the view. Wine country is truly beautiful!

In other forums there have been some reviews that focused on the (imagined?) sexual activity. In all my times at Harbin, I have never seen even the slightest hint of sexual activity or even a partial erection bobbing around underwater. (There, I've said it.) It's just not that kind of place.

I remember my first time at Harbin years ago that I was worried about the fact that the website and the brochure highlighted the spirituality of the place. Would I fit it? Would they make me feel like just a common person with no reason to sully their precious place? Note this excerpt from their web site. [The Church honors the spiritual dimension in everyone and each human being's unique expression thereof. It accepts individual differences in interpreting the essential unity of the Human Potential Movement, The Holistic Natural Movement, and Universal Spirituality. We believe the New Age already exists in these three movements, and our work is to combine them, giving strength to the whole that they form, and then to reach out and to teach.] See how scary that could be to a mere heathen. Was I made to feel like a worm? Nope - didn't happen! Though I went alone and I did not really talk to too many people, I did enjoy the calmness and good spirited feeling of the people in and around the pools.

Harbin is tucked quite far back in the hills. You arrive at a toll-house to pay the fee and get the parking pass. After paying, you drive up the hill to one of several dirt parking lots. The parking lots are still a ways from the pools so it keeps the sound down from the cars. It also allows you to walk up some pretty steep hills and unwind from the drive through the mountains before you get to the waters.

Current Rates and Directions: http://www.harbin.org/rates.htm.

On my first visit, I took my pack and towel and trudged up the mountain to the pools and changed in the changing room into my . well my nothings. It did seemed kind of weird to be in a tiny room taking my clothes off with women and men doing the same. Maybe it was that fact that I had just walked past dozens of naked people showering outside, walking from pool to pool naked, and just lounging in the pools naked. All that made freedom going INTO a room to take your clothes off seem odd. It was like the old joke where the nurse wakes up the sleeping patient to take their sleeping pill. It was kind of unnecessary.

The actual pool area is divided into five main areas that all are within about a half acre perched on the side of a cliff with a great view of the valley. As you walk up the path to the low gates, straight ahead is the warm pool. It is about fifteen feet by thirty five feet and ranges from four to five feet deep. You are required to take a shower before entering and there are two semi-enclosed showers and two fully open showers nearby.

So fast forward to today: In my most recent visits, I take most (or all) of my clothes off in the parking lot and just leave them in the car. It is far more practical to just walk up the hill to the pools in my briefs or nude. Nobody looks at you or pays the slightest bit of attention even a quarter of a mile from the actual hot, warm, and cold pools. You are very likely to pass nude people coming down the hill to their cars or to their campsites over the stream. But back to the warm pool - you shower and walk up the ten steps or so to the edge of the warm pool and down the six steps into the water. The temperature could not be more perfect and the pool easily holds 15 to 20 people without crowding. Most of the people are lazing along the side either with their eyes closed soaking up the warmth and the fresh breezes coming down off the hill or reading hanging on the side. The pool has a dense tree canopy and on the hot days it is nice to look up through the dense leaves and in the rain it is even nicer to hear the drops on the leaves and feel the cool spray coming down.

On a regular basis, one of the bathers will take a deep breath and sink to the bottom for underwater meditation. The water is pretty buoyant with all the minerals so they have to hold themselves down on the handholds along the sides. Some of them stay down for a very long time and when they surface they sound like seals blowing out the stale air and replacing it with fresh. It is all very relaxing. I have seen some people hugging in the pool. So what? Not every nude hug results in sex. The water is crystal clear so you will not have your genitals hidden in any event. (Yes, they light the pool at night).

Behind the warm pool and built almost into the hill in a rustic house is the super-hot plunge. I have gingerly walked into the water on a few occasions but I warn you that it is just this side of lethally hot!!! It is VERY hot and kind of frightening as you see how deep it is and that it only has two very narrow and steep stairs leading down into the hot water. On one of the times that I did submerge most of my body in it (to my neck), I got nervous when both ladders were blocked by hesitant people who got into up to their knees and could not come in any further. It was hard to get past them when I started to melt down. I avoid the hot plunge now but it still attracts some people to go in it - at least for a minute or so.

There is a cold bath behind the cute little hot plunge house that the hot plunge is in but I already know what cold water feels like. I'll pass.

There is also a sauna and a steam room adjacent to the warm pool. Both are great!!! The sauna is large enough for at least eight people and the steam room holds around twelve. On cold blustery days they are the second most popular places after the warm pool. If you have never been in a sauna you are not from this planet. If you have never been in a steam room you have to try it!!!

Back out in the main area is the heart shaped pool that is about twenty feet across and three feet deep. It is the main hang-out of families with small children and that is great. It is warm enough but really of no interest to me. The kids vary in age but most are pretty young. (Yes, some wear diapers but not all do. I am not sure what good that would do anyway.) I think that after some age, older kids would not be comfortable at Harbin unless they had been raised in a 'nude' family. It is rare to see a teenager there.

The actual main swimming pool is unheated but the valley gets to over 105F in the summer so it gets warm enough! It is at least twenty feet wide and forty or fifty feet long. The shallow end is three feet and I think the deep end is over ten. I always put my towel (carry two so you can take the other to the sauna) on the pools edge and lie down and read my books. It is heaven! Remember to turn over. The swimming pool is my favorite place. It is never too crowded and people talk in normal tones and just enjoy each others' company. You can also lie on an air mattress in the water if you brought one and nobody cares at all. It is no problem as most of the people do not use this for an exercise pool anyway. The sun can be intense in the summer and if you lay out wet on a float in the sun all day you are looking for a world-class sunburn.

Next to the swimming pool are two large decks for sunning and visiting. They are usually pretty crowded in the well visited days and it is hard for me to see why people would want to be that close together. I personally avoid the decks but many people like them so what do I know? They are out in the direct sun for the longest time each day. 98% of the people are naked. The ones that are not stand out like a nude person would be if the situation were reversed. It is so natural to be naked almost everywhere at Harbin that after you spend the day there it is hard to get dressed to go home.

To explore, it is kind of fun to just leave your towel and things by the pool (nobody touches them) and put on your flip-flops for a nude walk on one of the hundreds of trails. Some of the people you will encounter on the trail are nude and some have on partial clothes. (topless) I have walked for over an hour at a time but the truth is that the pull of the cool swimming pool and the warm pool are too great to keep me out for too long on the dusty trail. Since the valley is deep and the hills are high all around, the sun hours can be short in the spring and fall. In the mid of summer it is not all that long either but that allows you to go out for several days without burning yourself up on the first day and ruining all the rest.

I have not stayed in the hotel but I have looked at the rooms and they seem nice. With the pools you only need a half-bath and you certainly do not need a TV or other entertainment. I think the prices for the rooms are fair especially considering the uniqueness of this place. I know of no other place like Harbin with the pools, land, and magnificent views around it. I have been to other hot springs but most of them are just that - hot springs with small pools or bathtubs. You would not be free to walk out in nature nude or even just lay on the grass naked and read your book.

So go to Harbin. Leave your cares, cell phone, and your bikini at home. If you bring your own brand of unique personality Harbin Hot Springs, the place will be a better place for it.

Submitted by Naxos, California

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