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The Sauna is Minnesota

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Guest post series continues thanks to Brian Peterson, award-winning senior staff photographer for the Star Tribune, Minnesota’s leading newspaper.

Enter Brian:

“For 32 years I have been a photojournalist in Minnesota and keeping the creative juices flowing through both thrilling and disturbing assignments is often a challenge.  I often need to clear my thoughts, cleanse the soul and re-start. The sauna is my therapy.

Last year Star Tribune travel editor Kerri Westenberg and I began a project to celebrate, with pictures and stories, the four corners of Minnesota, each in a different seasons. After much planning and discussion, Minnesota – State of Wonders was born. First as a Star Tribune travel series and now as a coffee table book.


From the beginning, our plan was to give our readers a sense for what it feels like to experience our distinct landscapes, not just show what we already know, but find the nuance, details and characters that make up this great state. Our plan was to start with the Arrowhead region in winter. My first priority was to find and record Minnesotans enjoying the depths of the winter season, often on bone chilling nights, or during a heavy snowfall. This IS Minnesota.

I had the pleasure of photographing three traditional saunas in Northern Minnesota and all three are included in the book.

My first experience was at the National Forest Lodge near Isabella. After a day of skiing and snowshoeing, a session (or three) in the sauna and dip through a hole in the ice on Lake Gegoka was an experience I will never forget.


The second experience was with dear friend and sauna maestro Glenn Auerbach at the lake cabin of Tom Rolando on the shores of Lake Superior. A perfect evening with 180-degree soothing heat from Rolando’s sauna, perched high on the rocky edge of the great lake, with a spectacular view of far horizon and amazing sunset. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Lake Superior

Lastly, I would often spend evenings at my cabin north of Duluth while photographing in the Arrowhead. It’s here where my brother and I built a traditional sauna soon after buying the property. It’s here that I spend most time on the bench.  One particularly snowy evening we fired up the stove, and spent the evening taking cooling dives into the drifts of fresh snow piling up outside.


This is Minnesota, the land up-north, in all it’s frozen glory.

You can find the Minnesota – State of Wonders book at a pre-sale discount until August 31st at . You will also find more information on the project and a gallery of many of the images you will find in the book.”

Brian Peterson

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