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Austin’s oasis: Barton Springs

Locals tell me this summer has been a mild one for Austin heat. I believe them to varying degrees, depending on how hot I am at that moment. Even with the start of “fall” routines, the days are still sweltering. I usually love it – although sometimes it feels like a good snowfall would be the best thing in the world.

An incredible escape from Austin’s soaring temperatures is a place that has become dear to my heart in the last few months: Barton Springs Pool. For $3, visitors gain access to a beautiful, natural pool fed by underground springs. The turquoise water is enclosed by concrete around the edges, but the bottom has retained its natural state, with stones and boulders, sea grass and algae, salamanders and other critters. The depth changes without warning – the water may only graze your knees in certain areas, and in others, measure 12 feet to the bottom.

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Overlooking Barton Springs Pool is a grassy hillside where visitors can lounge under the trees or in the sun. No eating or drinking (unless in sealable bottles) is allowed, although we may or may not have skirted this rule last Saturday. The place is just begging for you to break out watermelon and wine.

Swimmers do laps across the pool while others lounge on giant floats. A guy on the hill serenades fellow sunbathers on his guitar. A single diving board juts out over the water in the middle of the scene, inciting cheers from onlookers for impressive stunts, brave 3-year-olds, or pranks such as the two people in a horse costume who pranced out to the end before retreating without touching the water.

The best thing about Barton Springs Pool is the water’s temperature. It ranges from 68-70 degrees F, which is pretty chilly by Austin standards and pretty warm by Stockholm standards. When it’s 95 degrees in the air, though, it’s perfect. I’ve never felt more refreshed and rejuvenated than in Barton Springs Pool on a hot afternoon. We had a couple such swims before crossing the street to Zilker Park for Austin’s infamous Blues on the Green concert series on Wednesdays throughout the summer. You sit in a hot field listening to music with 10,000 other people for a few hours; what better preface than a dip in the Springs?

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I also attended a few free summer yoga sessions across from the Springs on Monday evenings, hosted by Austin’s Wanderlust Yoga studio. An hour of yoga followed by a dip in the cool water, with free entry after 9pm.

Barton Springs Pool is a pretty special place, and the perfect escape from Austin’s summer swelter. I’m hoping we end up living in close proximity so I can make myself a regular, but for now, the 10-minute drive isn’t bad either.

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