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Sauna Days 2023: we have become, comfortably hot

light steam graphic

May 6, 2023, Larsmont Cottages, Two Harbors, MN, USA. Part 1 of 2. The steady winds coming off the lake were producing rolling ocean style waves along the rocky North Shore Lake Superior shoreline. The door opens from the “brick and mortar” Larsmont sauna and a group of sauna bathers file out, single file, their hot round complete. Like a Navy Seals instructor, David Jones shouts out “Let’s do this!” And the group marches their way down to the shoreline, sweaty bodied and clad only in their bathing suits.

Sauna Days 2023 guests, navigating their way to nature's Lake Superior cold plunge
Sauna Days 2023 guests, navigating their way to nature’s Lake Superior cold plunge

Nature has delivered the perfect sauna weather for Sauna Days 2023: 45 degrees f. and air conditioning style coolness that greets you from head to toe. Nature has also delivered us the perfect cold plunge pool, a safe haven rock depression, constantly being flushed by the strong waves crashing into the rocky point, perfect for laying down in the 40 degree f. lake water. This is the destination for the Navy Seal team.

The group encourages each other, taking turns cold plunging into Lake Superior. All are either familiar with cold plunging, or faking it quite well. Some settle themselves into deep breathing and meditation, laying back into the icy cold water, and for others it’s a quick plunge, like dipping an ice cream cone in chocolate at Dairy Queen. The entourage give each other a hand up from the rocks, and a couple of high fives for good measure. David works his way back along the rock ledge, safely onto the grassy landscape and greets me with that familiar broad smile, that we will see all weekend long.

Endorphins rushing, vasoconstricted and euphorically recharged, he is searching for a way to describe for me how he’s feeling. “That was incredible” is all that he can muster, shaking his head in awe, with that childlike smile. A few head back to the sauna for another round, while a couple others settle themselves onto Adirondack chairs surrounding one of the fire pits along the Larsmont shoreline, equalizing their body temps and taking it all in. Preserving their moment of contrast therapy in hard nature.

Sauna Days 2023: chilling out by the shore between rounds
Sauna Days 2023: chilling out by the shore between rounds

12 Saunas scattered around the grounds

The folks at Larsmont Cottages put in a conscious effort to arrange the mobile saunas into smaller clusters or groups. As the 150 plus attendees began moving about the grounds, common language came into play. There’s the main lodge, and what became “the lower village” to the left of the lodge, “upper village” to the right. The “Larsmont Sauna” towards the lake, clustered by the North Up and North Shore tent saunas. Larsmont turning into Sauna Days is like the transformation of the Indio Polo Grounds to Coachella. Semi recognizable, and with a vibe happening everywhere. Wherever You Go, There You Are. Present moment being. Ever present Everywhere. Warm Love of good sauna.

The collection of mobile saunas were beautiful, eclectic, artistic, and creative. The sauna hosts themselves were also beautiful, eclectic, artistic and creative. Enthusiasts sharing their sauna love and good heat with dozens and dozens of appreciative attendees. Are we getting a vibe of Sauna Days 2023? comfortably hot. Here’s a list of saunas:

UPPER LARSMONT:

  • Alex from BSaunasUSA, driving his sauna from Buffalo, New York and stopping to fill up with gas every 145 miles., 8 miles to the gallon in his Sprinter van.
  • WI Sauna, Beau.. rocking it hot. “I don’t mess around. I’ve done enough of these. I know how to get my sauna hot.”
  • Viking Floating Saunas, inaugural voyage for Sauna Days. Founder Ben: “It took us one year to design and three weeks to build our first one.”
  • Voyageur Saunas, Eric. A repeat exhibitor. “Glenn, you got me into this.. it’s all your fault” he quips with a big laugh.
  • Deep Wave Sauna, winners of the best cool down bench award as well as best post sauna late night food libations, from Keegan’s family farm. (Warning: if you get one taste of his pickled beans, you will find yourself hovering over the jar until it’s all gone).

LAKESIDE:

  • The Larsmont Brick and Mortar Sauna. Arguably and surely within the top 5 best resort heat in Minnesota.
  • NorthUp. Darin’s Urban Wing creation. Source of the Coachella analogy and comparable photo genetics.
  • North Shore Sauna, two tent saunas nestled amongst the trees and Larsmont Landscape, not replicating but being an actual North Shore sauna tent deployment.

LOWER LARSMONT:

  • Sisu & Löyly: traveled down the North Shore with Katy’s new arched sauna “like a boat built upside down” explains builder ..
  • Bear Naked Saunas: Ben Johnson’s brand new Baby Bear, impressing most everybody with kick ass lämpömassa and 218 kindness.
  • Du Nord sauna: host to the Lithuanian Bath Academy’s special pirtis sessions.

Sauna speakers

Imagine lots of sauna action, and sprinkle it with adjacent possible presentations. Sauna Days hosted Scott Carney from Denver, Garrett Connover from Maine, Jesse Coomer from Indiana, Glenn from SaunaTimes blogosphere, and Rimus & Biruté from Lithuania! More from each of these speakers on the upcoming edition of the Sauna Talk podcast. Yet for now, close our eyes and imagine a map of these locations, and the dot dot dots of what it took to get these authors, thinkers, presenters to Larsmont Cottages, Two Harbors, Minnesota. Many sauna fanatics like myself were torn between sauna and presentations, but those of us who sat in on these presentations were treated to fabulous insights into thermal goodness.

Some sauna conferences are about sauna. Sauna Days is about sauna as well as the ancillary aspects to sauna – breath work, cold exposure, whisking as healing, Sauna Life, and Sauna Magic.

Sauna Days speakers, from left, Scott Carney, Glenn Auerbach, Jesse Coomer, Garrett Connover
Sauna Days speakers, from left, Scott Carney, Glenn Auerbach, Jesse Coomer, Garrett Connover

Fireside chats

Whos idea was fireside chats anyway? Well, on paper it made great sense. At Sauna Days, we are all teachers of one thing and a student of another, aren’t we? Fireside chats was (cough) my idea of turning the tables. Where guests can be presenters, and presenters can be guests. All great thinking until you have twelve kick ass saunas comfortably hot, 20 mile hr. winds outside blowing the shit out of any attempt at outdoor campfires, and a fabulous ongoing sauna party at the bar in the main lodge. Well, in fairness, we did have fireside chats in the inside lodge by the indoor wood fireplace. When it was time for listening in with a favorite speaker, well it was as easy as spotting them in the crowd, and stepping in close, like if finding a spot on the sauna bench. Guests to Sauna Days learned quickly that spontaneous fireside chats are miles better than spontaneous combustion (insert soon to be published post about pyrolysis being just another word for a lot to lose).

Guests from far and wide

“How many of you are not from Minnesota?” I ask the audience under the tent Saturday morning as the speaker session began. I was shocked. About 80% of the 100 or so in the audience raise their hands. We had folks join us from California, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, New York,

Some quotes from the sauna speakers

Rimus & Biruté: Our bodies are made to be connected.  We all live in the same world. Sauna Aid: helping people in emotional crisis. Thermal bathing for emotional support. The heat helps people feel better just by accident. 

“Men like to be deep fried. Women need to be steamed.” 

Scott Carney: Investigative journalist. Being uncomfortable pushes an edge. You are practicing mind over matter. The Wedge, that space between stimulus and our response.

Jesse Coomer: How do we handle rumination? It’s a combination of the conscious and the unconscious. The motivational network. It is you that is trying to protect and help you. The sense of anxiety is helping you thrive and survive. We are having two different experiences. Conscious self vs unconscious self. Subjective human experience.

Dopamine is there to get you to help you mold your motivational network.  Autonomic nervous system

The language of breath. Two breathing techniques: 4,7,8 and sniff sniff poo. 

Nerding out on sauna dynamics

Grant Whittle made his way to Sauna Days from his hometown in Alabama. Grant and I had a conference call and meeting about the Sauna Research Institute. Then, we later found ourselves riffing about sauna climate and dynamics. Correction, we found me nodding up and down and he educating me about sauna climate and dynamics. I know hundreds, perhaps thousands of people when it comes to sauna. Grant is on the very short list of people that really understand sauna. Not just as a professional of thermal engineering, but the entire spirit of sauna. A rare breed and blend. We discussed:

  • Hot and dry steam vs. cool and wet steam 
  • With wet steam, you can’t get enough latent energy into your sweat to evaporate your skin. 
  • Too much wet steam and you become a steam junkie. Uncomfortably wet. 

Alex BSaunas is going to get into this conversation, because he mixes wet steam and dry steam as part of his venek sessions. This is not being a sauna snob or falling for pedantic chatter. Those that begin to understand and appreciate wet steam vs. dry steam are on their way to appreciating good sauna.

This article is part 1 of 2 of Sauna Days 2023. Click here for part two.

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