Jump in a frozen lake? You’ve got to be kidding!


I like to be clean. I shower every day. I like the outdoors, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, etc. But honestly, I like to get to a cabin with running water and get clean. I do go on vacations where I camp and don’t shower. But I have to psych myself up to do it. I like to think that I’m this hearty-outdoorsyadventuresome girl, but I’m kind of fooling myself.

The camp week has an important lesson about water conservation. The kids look at how often they shower and how much water they’re using per week. Do you really need to shower that much? Of course, this is a personal question, but it at least gets them thinking about their own water usage.

During the course of the week, the students don’t shower. I’m really glad I’m in the girls’ cabin. This time there were only four of them and they bring Febreeze to help make it through. Since I only come up for three days, I can survive pretty well without a shower for that amount of time.

On Thursday night, they cap things off with a sauna. Make sure you’re reading that sow-nah, pronounced the Finnish way. The girls and boys sauna separately. I’ve done it once before in the fall. But at that time, it was unseasonably warm.

Winter camping is different. They still sauna. But they cut a hole in the ice. Yep. Jump on in.

Earlier in the day, we were walking across the lake on our Eco-hike and came by the sauna. We asked to see the hole. It was covered with wood for insulation. The ice on the lake is over a foot thick. Since they open this hole up each week, they don’t want to start from scratch each time. So the wood is an insulator. We took off the wood and there was the hole.

hole in ice

I was already getting cold from being outside for several hours. The thoughts running through my head ran along the lines of: “You have got to be kidding me. There is no way in hell that I’m jumping into a frozen lake!”

As we walked back to the classroom to talk about our Eco-hike I was thinking to myself about this sauna experience. I’m not all that dirty, I don’t need to sauna. I don’t need to prove that I’m some woodsy super girl. I really don’t need to do it.

I had a few hours to think about it. I got to the point where I thought that I could sauna and then roll in the snow, if needed. The other teacher chaperone said that he doesn’t do the shocking cold. He’d sauna and that’s it.

After dinner I got my swim suit on underneath all of my warm layers with my wool socks. We had the sauna talk. They give very clear directions about how this whole thing works. You have several options for your sauna experience.

DSD= Dip, Sauna, Dip – the camp counselors recommend this one

SD = Sauna, Dip

S = Sauna

D = Dip, which is just dip in the lake, which really equals swimming in the winter and that’s just not happening…

The girls got to go first. I’m still very nervous. We walk to the sauna. It’s dark, my headlamp lights the way, there are light snowflakes falling. It’s actually fairly warm (mid 20s). We get to the sauna and go to the changing room. We are walking on wood pallets so we aren’t on a cold concrete floor. We carefully get our stacks of clothing ready for when we return. Your hat goes on top of the pile.

The girls in the group are getting the whole experience. They did the DSD. As they headed toward the lake for their pre dip I agreed that I’m a wimp for not doing the first dip. I went directly into the sauna. Me in my swimsuit and wool socks. Nice picture, huh? You stay in the sauna for only about 15 – 20 minutes. You also have your water bottle with you to stay hydrated. At first you’re just heating up and you’re dry. Then comes the sweat. It’s 180 degrees. You’re sweating profusely. It’s so incredibly hot that jumping in the frozen lake is actually looking feasible.

A few of the camp counselors had been in the sauna for a little while longer than me. There comes a point when you really want to get out. With two of the counselors, I made my way out of the sauna and to the lake. Honestly, I wasn’t cold at all. It felt really good and it was beautiful outside. They had lanterns down by the lake and they were behind shards of ice that looked incredible with the lightly falling snow. We walked around to the back of the hole and one at a time, we took the plunge.

I crouched down to the hole and hopped in. It was only as deep as my thighs. I dipped down to a little above my waist and climbed out the ladder. Don’t get me wrong, it was freezing. But it really wasn’t that bad. I think it was better than doing it in the fall. In the fall you have to wade into the lake and you’re in it for a longer time.

I walked in an excited manner (not running) back to the dressing room and got my towel and put on my hat. I remember my feet in my soaking wool socks being the coldest. I got dressed as quickly as possible and by that time the girls were coming in after their dip. I gathered my belongings and headed out into that snowy wonderland feeling quite warm and very impressed with myself for actually doing the dip.


One Response to “Jump in a frozen lake? You’ve got to be kidding!”

  1. Peter Says:

    Have a look, we’ve been doing this for years, an we’re still strong and healthy as ever….

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