Harbin Hot Springs destroyed in California wildfire
Updated Sept. 16. The Harbin Hot Springs retreat and conference center was wiped out late last Saturday by the Valley Fire that continues raging through the Middletown area in northern California.
Harbin hosted many Loving More conferences in the polyamory movement's early formative years. It has continued to be a prime venue for workshops of the Human Awareness Institute (HAI), an unsung incubator of the poly movement for decades. I'm told that a Level 4 HAI weekend was in progress when the evacuation was ordered.
Harbin was run by a total of 285 residents and staff living on the property and in the surrounding area; it was an intentional community as well as a retreat. Many of them have also lost their homes and possessions. There were no casualties.
Everyone expects to rebuild. Harbin's world-famous springs and pools remain, along with some stone and metal artworks, two new cabins, and two-thirds of the Domes according to people who have scouted the situation. The fire may have been intense enough to kill even the biggest trees among the buildings, but patches of woods nearby still appear green. An enormous reservoir of good will, going back decades, should help with money and labor.
What's less clear is the future of the entire region. Harbin was one of the largest employers in the area, but substantial parts of Middletown and Cobb are also destroyed. Diane Tulley, a water masseuse at Harbin, told a reporter, "I don’t know how Lake County is going to survive this."
Like Esalen farther south, Harbin has long been a prime venue for New Age, spiritual, and personal-development gatherings. First developed as a spa in 1867, its lodges were destroyed by previous fires in 1894, 1928, 1943, and 1960. In the late 1960s and early 70s the site had a chaotic countercultural history. Since 1975 it has been owned and operated by Heart Consciousness Church, a spiritual nonprofit. The retreat includes 5,000 surrounding acres.
The Valley Fire is still only 30% contained as of Wednesday morning.
Los Angeles Times story: Harbin Hot Springs, a place of renewal, is reduced to ashes by Valley fire (Sept. 15, 2015)
San Francisco Chronicle story: Well-loved Harbin Hot Springs ravaged by Valley Fire; pools survive (Sept. 14).
Santa Rosa Press-Democrat: Valley fire destroys Harbin Hot Springs (Sept. 14).
Official website: Harbin.org, with information on how to donate to emergency relief for residents and staff.
Harbin Community Check-in. What Help Do You Need - What Help Can You Give.
Rebuilding Harbin Hot Springs.
Previous official Facebook page.