By Wilson Walker

MIDDLETOWN, Lake County (CBS SF) – Like the Phoenix of ancient mythology, the popular Harbin Hot Springs resort in Lake County is arising from the ashes of an inferno.

The popular Northern California clothing optional resort was completely destroyed when the Valley Fire roared through the tiny community of Middletown. The only thing that survived the firestorm were its pools where once visitors sunned themselves during a holistic pilgrimage to Lake County.

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Harbin Hot Springs Managing Director Will Erme looks at the still devastated landscape and says it’s hard to envision how beautiful the resort once was.

“This is where the dressing room was and on top of that was the kitchen for guests to cook their own food,” he told KPIX 5 standing amid the ruins. “It’s hard to imagine how the buildings really fit into the landscape that you see … The degree of destruction was pretty much total. Almost every building that was on Harbin Hot Springs was burned the foundation.”

But now, months after the massive wildfire, Mother Nature is beginning to return to the area and with her hope for the future.

“We knew that Harbin would survive, because the heart of Harbin – the hot pool and the warm pool survived,” he said.

The pools are in remarkably good shape right down to the hand-wrought railings.

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Erme said visitors could be using the pools by the end of the year.

“We’re hoping that sometime this fall we will be able to open for guests to come visit for camping and soaking in the pools,” he said.

But returning to the pools is a short term goal, rebuilding the entire resort may take several years to complete. It’s a major project for the non-profit community.

“We’ve had guests come up here and just visit the gate, just park and sit and drive away,” Erme said. “They know they can’t come up here but they just want to be nearby.”

Hopefully, Erme believes their disappointment will be short-lived.

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“I look out there and I actually see hope,” he told KPIX 5. “In some ways it’s a blank canvas I see our wonderful new Harbin growing up from the ground.”