Hot Rocks

Posted on June 14, 2012


No, this is not a music reference. I am referring to the rocks from my Great Grandparents old steambath. The igneous rocks that my grandpa chose to go on top of his old oil drum stove that was laid on its side with a Sears & Roebuck conversion kit door on the end for stuffing wood in. River rocks that were chosen for withstanding great heat that fairly makes them glow and cold water splashes for producing steam without succumbing to explosion. These rocks and the old door have found new life after being retrieved from the rusted out drum and placed on a newly welded stove crafted by the shop teacher and his class here in Naknek.

The New Steambath With Its First Smoke Rising Out of the Stack

I have heard tales of men from Western Alaska competing for who can withstand the heat of the steambath the longest. Competitions that included wills so fierce that hats were required to protect ears from second degree burns. I know my Great-Grandpa enjoyed cooking newcomers out of the steam and then taking his own time to enjoy it.

My parents were first to enjoy the new stove and steambath and then it was my turn. Being alone afforded me the pleasure of establishing my own time and level of comfort. This may sound strange, but I have noticed it enough times in my steambath and sauna experiences that I find that I look to it as a sign that I have accomplished cleansing from the heat; I begin to taste what I perceive as a wood flavor. Something like cedar, but not quite, something herbal and fresh.

Grandpa’s Old Rocks on New Stove (hard to photograph because of all of the steam on my lens)

I wouldn’t presume to speak for my Dad, but the stove was seriously good and stoked to the point that the hot water in the receptacle on the side of the stove was boiling from the heat within. I cannot help but think that my Dad made it this hot to honor my Grandpa, his rocks, and his ability to withstand their heat. It is wonderful to know that the rocks that have radiated heat for so many in our family are continuing to do so.


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Posted in: Bristol Bay, Culture