Here’s a weekend tradition I encourage you to adopt: Hike and Sauna Saturday.
It’s a two-part adventure that starts with (you probably guessed this already) a scenic mountain ascent and ends with you contentedly sweating your brains out in a sauna in the Maine woods.
Sounds nice, right? Here’s how it works:
Step 1: The hike
You’re certainly welcome to hike whatever you’d like, but for proximity’s sake, I recommend Pleasant Mountain in Bridgton/Denmark. The Ledges Trail is 1.8 miles long, with scenic overlooks along the way (trailhead is on Mountain Road). The 1,600-foot elevation gain will give your quads and lungs a run for their money, but it’s also a manageable hike even for folks who don’t hike often. (And there’s also those scenic overlooks where you can stop, catch your breath, or sit and eat macaroni and cheese like I did last weekend.)
The view from the summit is stupendous – a whole horizon of mountain tops, including Mount Washington. Have a seat, take in the sights, and eat a sandwich. (In case I didn’t mention it earlier: Always pack snacks when hiking. I’m highly food motivated, so the promise of a sandwich at the summit keeps my legs moving.)
Step 2: The sauna
A sauna in the woods awaits at Nurture Though Nature, a retreat center located in Denmark (77 Warren Road, Denmark). From the Ledges Trail parking lot, it’s only a 15-minute drive. The center offers group retreats and workshops, yoga, and eco-cabin and yurt rentals. They also have a Finnish-style wood-fired sauna. (SAUNA!) That sauna is open to the public every Saturday from 4-6 p.m. October through March. They call it Super Sauna Saturday.
During our visit, we arrived at Nurture Through Nature and followed the wooden signs directing us along a trail on the property to the sauna. Aside from the smoke wafting from the chimney, there was no sign of anyone else. But inside, we heard voices coming from the sauna. Some chanting, too. There’s a changing area and benches where you can come to cool down for a bit.
We opened the door to find 10 or so fellow sauna-goers relaxing on the benches. Some sat quietly, others chatted together. There was a tub of cool water and people occasionally dipped into it with small bowls to pour on their heads or chests or arms to cool down. Wendy and I found places to sit and I leaned back against the wall and closed my eyes and just…sweat.
I don’t often do well in hot situations (heat sometimes makes me hostile), so I wasn’t confident I’d last more than three minutes in the sauna. But oh did I! And it felt absolutely glorious. When it got too hot, I stepped out to cool down, drink water, or eat a few salty almonds. There’s a creek nearby you can jump in, too, if you’d like.
Everyone was friendly and welcoming and talkative. And while it felt slightly weird at first to walk into a sauna full of strangers in the woods – I got over it immediately. And all I kept saying was, “This feels so niiiiiiice.”
It’s only $15 a person to enjoy the sauna (bring cash to put into the fee box just outside the sauna door). Bathing suits are required for Super Sauna Saturday. And I cannot wait to go back on some cold, snowy February Saturday. I might even skip the hike altogether and go straight to sauna.
Super Sauna Saturday
Every Saturday from 4-6 p.m., from October through March
Sauna is open to the public as shared space for deep relaxation and community connection.
No Appointment is necessary.
Cost is $15 and $10 for students.
For more info about Super Sauna Saturday and what to bring/expect: www.ntnretreats.com/sauna
For more about the hiking trails at Pleasant Mountain and directions to the trailhead:
Note: This post was originally published on Nov. 20, 2016.