The Saunas in New England are Closed so I’ll Build One

I just got back from a quick trip to New Hampshire for some winter hiking and, of course, wood-fired sauna.

For the first time in a while I felt a profound physical and mental calmness which carried through the days to an insanely deep night’s rest. (Slept 11 hours after the hike!)

I recently stumbled on this awesome mini documentary on Finnish sauna culture featuring these words describing sauna well:

A profound feeling of presence. The feeling after having a sauna… as they say is like after mediation, you have an inner smile. I feel that it has a healthy effect, that positively that comes with it. The process is mystical, you can’t really put into words, you have to experience it.

I mean, I guess it could’ve also been the near-perfect winter hiking that had me feeling good. Or combination of winter hiking and sauna. Or just spending so much needed offline time with my wife. I’m the king of life experiments with too many variables!

Back at home and wanting to ride this wave of calm for a while, I vigorously Googled for any open authentic saunas in the Boston area. (None of that infrared garbage.) The cabin I visited is incredible but being a 2-hour drive each way it won’t work as for weekly sauna, the schedule most enthusiasts use.

My favorite semi-public sauna in the area, Finland Steam Baths, is closed due to the pandemic. UKTS in Pembroke, New England’s oldest public sauna and one of my favorite places on earth, is closed too.

I found the Russian Sauna at Fire & Ice in Dedham, surprised I hadn’t heard of it until now. They offer online booking and look wide open for appointments. I sent them a quick email asking about pandemic procedures. A few days went by and I still hadn’t heard back.

My wife’s headed out to help with her niblings (you just learned a new thing: Niblings is the better way to refer to nieces & nephews) later this week. Thinking maybe the Russian Sauna isn’t all that into email, I gave them a buzz just now to try and squeeze in a last-minute booking.

On hearing that classic 3-tone “this line has been disconnected” message I went from completely amped to deflated. Yet I hang on. I know I’ll find weekly sauna somewhere.

As far as I can see, my closest option at this point for sauna during the pandemic (less the awesome little Airbnb in New Hampshire) is Nurture through Nature up near Portland Maine. They offer wood-fired sauna by the hour with an optional overnight cabin stay. Being a solid 3-hour drive, that’s not a weekly trip I can make and at this point there’s only one path: It’s time to build my own sauna.

All that’s left is convincing my wife.

The solar powered cabin and wood-fired sauna we rented on Airbnb.
The rear of the sauna in full swing
We pinned it a couple times.
The morning views out the cabin’s triangle window are spectacular.
The ladle handle my father-in-law built for me and my wife gave me as a combination Christmas/birthday gift this year. We picked up the spoon at a yard sale; full story for another post.
Sauna portraits!
An amazing day at Mount Chocorua.
Spectacular views