I went the Uljas Koitto Temperance Society (UKTS) sauna Saturday night in Pembroke, a most traditional Finnish sauna. One would have to travel to Finland to get such an authentic sauna experience.
Set at an old hunting camp, purchased by UKTS in 1927, it is located on Furnace Pond. If you’ve driven around lake roads in the dark it’s tricky to find a driveway or entrance, almost like going “over the river and through the woods” to get there. Fortunately, another car behind me knew where they were going and pulled in. I followed them down the driveway, parked, and walked up.
As I entered the main lodge I was greeted by some of the elder members and was introduced to everyone. There was a long, wooden table with benches on each side in the middle of a large kitchen. I was offered homemade cakes, pies, and coffee by the ladies.
It’s $20 per visit. As I was paying Phil, he mentioned to me that a basic membership fee was $20/year and my sauna visits would only be $15. He suggested that I try it and consider that. I replied, “No, let me sign up now. I’m coming back.”
When we got to the sauna, Svetlana showed me the men’s side as she said “You go in here.” Pointing to another area, she said, “That’s the ladies side. Please introduce yourself.” There was a gathering of a couple dozen people. Some were enjoying the sauna and some were swimming in the lake. After I walked into the changing room of this 87 year old sauna I changed into my bathing suit, walked through the shower area, and opened the sauna door.
The sauna seats 20 or so people at a time. There were about a dozen guys and one child in the sauna, all enjoying the intense heat experience. I took a seat on a middle bench. The thermostat read 220 degrees. I sat until I developed a good sweat (about 7-8 minutes), stepped out, and cooled down for 10 minutes.
When I re-entered the sauna I went right to the top bench. As water was thrown onto the rocks bursts of “loyly”, or steam, surged in a wave over me. As my heart rate increased, and the sweat continued to drip, I felt a deep sense of relaxation begin to develop. After about 8 minutes I dropped down to the middle bench where it was a bit cooler. After another 4 minutes I walked outside.
As I exited the sauna I went into the lake to cool off. As I sat submerged in the water the contrast in extreme temperatures created a sense of euphoria as nerves and endorphins were reacting to this sudden change.
I repeated this two more times. After my final session in the sauna I sat relaxed on the bench outside and struck up conversations. One member, Curt, discovered sauna at an early, coming to the sauna since he was a child in the 1960’s. His father would bring him as he was growing up. Here he is over 40 years later still enjoying the sauna. He told me why he comes. “It just makes you feel good.”
I agree completely.